Leveraging AI and automation to save lives
The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched healthcare systems to their limits and highlighted the need for digital innovation within our hospital facilities.
Amidst the struggles to suppress the outbreak, technological leaders have continued to develop smart healthcare solutions to improve patient outcomes, using automation and AI to ultimately save lives.
“Being able to predict a medical issue could have a life-or-death outcome,” said Daniel Garcia Gil, a Solution Architect with automation and digital solutions corporation Schneider Electric. “If you use an early-warning system that constantly monitors a patient’s vital signs, this system could automatically detect whether or not the patient is at risk of developing a serious medical condition.”
By integrating a range of digital solutions within a healthcare facility’s assessment workflow — from automating patient monitoring to predict treatment, to digital systems to improve staff efficiency and workload — hospitals have the capacity to improve patient care and comfort as well as reduce critical care scenarios.
Commonly, critical care teams manually measure and record vital signs for assessment by a physician, whereas an integrated digital solution could perform the same tasks, continually measuring and assessing the patient’s condition, then recommending an appropriate course of treatment based on predictive analysis.
“This could mean predicting a stroke or a heart attack, or another serious medical condition,” Garcia Gil said. “The patient is then treated before their condition worsens. For the patient, they could avoid a life-or-death issue or consequences in the long term; for the facility, they’ve just avoided a fatality.”
When considering the outcomes of automating clinical processes, the potential scenarios are literally life-changing.
“A common scenario could be as simple as avoiding a potential admission,” Garcia Gil said. “If a person is waiting in an emergency department and their situation gets worse and ends in an admission, there’s a chance that could have been avoided.”
A system could combine both a traditional clinical assessment process coupled with a digital monitoring and reporting system to enable expedited assessment of a patient’s needs. The combined result would equate to more care time with patients as well as automated assessment of symptoms presented to predict health events.
RapidResponse is one such system. Part of a suite of software services developed by Schneider Electric partner ThoughtWire, the company worked with Hamilton Health Sciences, Ontario, Canada, to implement an AI-powered digital solution to access patient data and provide care outcomes physicians can use immediately, while administering care.
The aim of the project was to take real-time data, captured directly from patient interviews, and turn it into usable knowledge that staff in any step of the workflow could access immediately.
To accomplish this, staff first use handheld smart devices to capture patient data which is fed into the RapidResponse app. Automated software then reports appropriate data directly to the most appropriate physician for their needs. The system has reduced incident response times by an average of five minutes, or roughly 50%, and saw a 61% reduction in Code Blue calls.
Another aspect of this level of automation is the ability to reduce the time medical staff spend on paperwork and the improvement in patient experience that results. In a normal reporting situation, a physician or nurse will interview a patient or take their vitals, then return to a nursing station to record notes in a computer. When this process is automated, a more beneficial outcome can result.
Rather than monitoring patients from afar in such a way, RapidResponse keeps nursing staff and physicians right at the patient’s bedside as they record vitals or symptomatic data. The benefits of increasing time with patients and removing the requirement to manually produce reports are felt both ways.
“In this use case scenario, it’s not just about treating more patients, it’s about the whole experience as a clinician and their feeling of satisfaction,” Garcia Gil said.
“They go home thinking ‘I'm doing the job that I really love’, which is treating patients. This also impacts the staff retention rate.”
The implementation and orchestration of such automation is not as simple as swapping in a few new computers and giving staff tablets to record data. Teams of system designers, including Solution Architects, like Garcia Gil, embark on a lengthy process to determine the needs of an individual healthcare facility, and its staff and patients, before any equipment or software is even considered.
For example, a mental healthcare facility will require different systems and processes to an oncology centre, because staff interact with patients in a different manner and the testing procedures required of each facility vary widely. Whether the facility is a new development or an existing institute will also dictate the approach of the project. These designs are then divided into facilities services and clinical systems.
Through the automation of facilities services, facets such as environmental systems and patient comfort services — like in-room entertainment — are continually monitored, and managed automatically. This can have a variety of positive outcomes.
“Patient comfort and satisfaction can be improved by using predictive systems to prevent equipment malfunction before they occur,” Garcia Gil said. “A patient won’t have to wait if their TV isn’t working or the heating or air conditioning in their room breaks down [because automation] can predict when that facility system is going to fail and indicate prevention measures or deal with failures more swiftly when they do happen.”
From a clinical equipment perspective, utilising automation can reduce the cost and frequency of equipment malfunctions and servicing, and even prevent failures in the first place. Monitoring is performed by IoT devices, which capture lifetime usage data to be collated against manufacturer specifications and real-world data collected anonymously from other equipment users. Smart software then monitors equipment and predicts maintenance events accordingly, issuing automated work requests before failures ever occur.
An innovation project was recently completed on an Australian paediatric hospital, which saw the integration of roughly 40 different systems throughout the green-star facility to automate assessment management, operational procedures and patient experience. The implementation of services and equipment encompassed a variety of disciplines, encouraging collaboration and efficiency between workflows.
The facility’s systems, built on the EcoStruxure software platform, developed and managed by Schneider Electric, offered staff and facilities managers the ability to manage building services and patient data from a ‘single pane of glass’ — an iPad or other smart device.
The ability to automate workflows and building services saw operational efficiency increase across both clinical staff and facilities teams, and an increase in patient safety and satisfaction, ensuring the facility gives our most vulnerable the greatest chance of recovery and good health they have.
While digital innovation in any industry will require a substantial budget, when that industry is health care, these kinds of benefits clearly outweigh the costs. To ensure the hospitals of the future deliver the best level care possible, the time to implement this technology is now.
For more information about hospitals of the future, visit se.com/au/healthcare.
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