Picture this: A 15-year old injures herself in a hockey game. She is carried to the school clinic where she is diagnosed with a sprained ankle, patched up and left to her own devices. Throughout the school day, her leg worsens, swells and turns purple.
She limps home to realise the pain has become excruciating. Her parents return in the evening and rush her to the emergency department when the swelling doesn’t stop. 12 hours after she got hurt, she is re-diagnosed with a broken ankle.
Even as healthcare professionals work day and night to provide the best help possible, several patients can slip through the cracks. Where humans fall short, technology can help plug the gaps to improve care delivery and simplify a patient’s journey. Here’s how:
Improve patient safety
Doctors, nurses and all healthcare professionals work hard to ensure the welfare of patients. But oftentimes, their life can be put at risk due to the healthcare provider’s lack of knowledge about pre-existing medical conditions, symptoms and past and current medications.
Technology can provide contextual information at the point-of-care and flag the patient safety and risk indicators to the care providers. With the advent and adoption of evidence-based treatment pathways and care plans, it also presents potential care options to improve treatment efficacy and patient safety.
Healthcare facilities can also use data to better inform patients about what to expect. For instance, by comparing a patient’s medical records and family history with cohorts of other patients having similar conditions, doctors can better predict specific diet, exercise or cessation programs specific to that patient. This is particularly useful in prognosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases and holistic wellness options, something the average patient is demanding more and more nowadays.
This approach ensures patients are more informed and in turn are more willing to be open with their caregivers. Medical knowledge often cannot surpass how well patients know their own bodies, and combining the two will create a patient journey that is much safer and less harrowing.
Reduce medical errors
Doctors often work with incomplete, inaccurate and – in some emergency situations – no information. This increases the likelihood of medical errors, for instance, prescribing a drug a patient may be allergic to. An integrated platform with patient information can reduce the risk of such errors by providing the right information at the right time to the clinicians.
A ‘one patient – one record’ system where details of all past medication, procedures, tests and allergies are stored on the cloud, as part of their Electronic Medical Record online and accessible by healthcare providers when needed, can reduce the dependence on patients to know their own medical history.
For instance, in Brunei, citizens can register through a mobile app to pull together their health information into a single digital record. Doctors at public health centres have access to patients’ past medical history allowing them to make more accurate diagnosis of their current condition and avoid ordering duplicate tests that cost their health ministry a lot of money.
In a digital age, even strictly regulated medicines are easier to source, and for authorities these can be more difficult to track. Technology can help flag the misuse of prescriptions and drugs, and aid patients in need to get the care they require to combat addiction.
A system can flag misuse or anomalies by analysing prescription details across patients for controlled drugs. Doctors with access to medication profiles can suggest alternative care plans to reduce the unnecessary use of expensive drugs.
Having digital medication profiles also guards the next generation and community against the vulnerability of pathogens being resistant to certain drugs. This allows public and private healthcare provides to promote and audit the appropriate use of antimicrobials, like antibiotics, which can often be overprescribed.
In Singapore, Changi General Hospital is looking into implementing a ‘grab and go’ automated dispensary that sells pharmacy only drugs by scanning their ID and selecting their symptoms which will be sent to an on call pharmacist if necessary. Medication can be denied based on previous abuse history or multiple sales to the same ID card. The system speeds up the process of obtaining drugs while ensuring a digital paper trail to flag abuse of drugs.
Cut response times
Trauma resuscitation in emergency departments or among first responders can be one of the most challenging experiences for doctors and nurses. Time is of the essence, to ensure survival of a trauma patient. And yet, there are many factors preventing the proper training of nurses and doctors – short workshops, non-standardised trainers, and limited number of seats in training.
To combat this and improve resuscitation response time and survival rate, Singapore General Hospital is looking into using serious games and augmented reality to train its nurses in trauma resuscitation. The course allows nurses to train at their own pace and time, become confident in their skills and get more hands on training than previously possible.
Data will also be captured on each student to profile their learning patterns and to help assess their skills and response level. The interactive learning platform will reduce the different experiences nurses face in applying theory to practice and in turn reduce response times, increase trauma survival rate and reduce patient recovery time.
Technology has drastically disrupted, changed, and ultimately improved the way we experience our lives in many ways, and it can do the same for experiences in healthcare.
This post is authored by Jega Ponnudurai, Industry General Manager, Healthcare & Life Sciences, Asia, DXC Technology.