The Patient-First Approach to Better Healthcare Runs on Technology

By Poornima Apte, Contributor

Medical professionals understand that fighting cancer requires every advantage they can harness. But what’s the one tool hospitals around the world increasingly rely on? Sheer computing power.

Health systems are using high-speed computing to drive technologies such as data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). These, in turn, deliver high-quality care, increase patient satisfaction, and compress the time between clinical discovery and patient treatment.

The work done at Gustave Roussy Cancer Center in Paris stands as a top example of how technology improves patients’ lives. Researchers understand that cancer treatments need to be timely, strategic, and constantly calibrated to the patient’s varying condition. This is why, according to Mikael Azoulay, chief information officer, the center uses data analytics to accelerate the lab-to-treatment journey. “We want to decrease the time taken to turn data into clinical and academic value and provide access to these insights anytime, anywhere. This helps us work on a better, faster and more personalized cure and care treatment for our patients,” Azoulay says.

The technological issues involved in any large healthcare system—Gustave Roussy is a three-pronged center invested in treatment, education, and research—are especially complex given the twin challenges of scale and security. The center sees more than 50,000 patients annually and employs more than 3,000 professionals. Stringent laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation regarding patient privacy, mandate that data-sharing be secure and only accessible to select professionals.

“Managing and personalizing treatment options for thousands of patients, while accelerating cutting-edge research, requires a comprehensive end-to-end solution for computing: from the workstation to the server, cloud, and beyond.”

—Mikael Azoulay, chief information officer, Gustave Roussy Cancer Center

“Managing and personalizing treatment options for thousands of patients, while accelerating cutting-edge research, requires a comprehensive end-to-end solution for computing: from the workstation to the server, cloud, and beyond,” Azoulay says.

Gustave Roussy uses a hyperconverged solution from Dell Technologies, an infrastructure network that delivers computing and storage in one unit. “This helps us deploy cutting-edge research and implement less invasive and more personalized medicine to help cure cancer,” Azoulay explains. (Gustave Roussy is also a nonprofit partner of Dell Technologies’ Dell Giving program.)

The team at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, is also dedicated to helping patients fight cancer. Craig Owen, chief information officer, says that the healthcare center is employing advanced technologies like AI to deliver efficiencies. One of these big shifts is toward digitization of X-rays. AI and machine learning algorithms learn the characteristics of the patient’s original tumor and, after treatment, compare the newer iterations of the tumor against the original to detect a reduction in size. Significant shrinkage indicates that the treatment might be working—if not, physicians know to try alternative treatments.

Prescribing an Integrated Approach

Technology has also helped Manipal Hospitals, headquartered in Bengaluru, India, says Nandkishore Dhomne, chief information officer.

Manipal, the third-largest healthcare institution in India, implemented its digital transformation by integrating patient records and assigning a unique ID to each patient. That one ID registers the patient’s every touchpoint, whether inside the flagship location or at the hospital’s 10-plus branches in India.

Dhomne says that every interaction and test the patient has at the hospital is saved in the records to deliver a holistic view of his or her health history. Connected ambulance systems allow in-house doctors to talk to emergency medical technicians in ambulances to chart a path to treatment before the patient has actually entered the hospital.

Video conferencing technology helps the ambulance become a seamless extension of the hospital, Dhomne says. “Doctors are able to send instructions to the ambulance crew and are able to see the patient data on their systems.” Video conferencing also helps make use of the critical minutes spent en route to the hospital.

Patient as Consumer

The integration of patient records not only allows physicians and nurses to see the entirety of the patient journey (and therefore make better decisions), it also helps patients. Patients at Manipal hospital can use their ID to be more invested in their care. The hospital has self-serve kiosks located strategically throughout the premises to facilitate interactions. “[Patients can enter their ID number in the kiosks], can register, make appointments, payments, and buy healthcare services,” Dhomne says.

Such a patient-centric approach is a sign that hospitals are now viewing patients as consumers, notes Owen of MD Anderson. Patients at MD Anderson can use an app called MyChart to access electronic health records and also record their daily vitals. Any change in these numbers can alert physicians who can then suggest patients come in to be evaluated.

IT Integrated With Care

Seeing as how technology is easing every patient and caregiver touchpoint, IT now integrates seamlessly into the healthcare infrastructure at each of these institutions. “At Manipal, IT is not compartmentalized under some other function, it’s very strategic,” Dhomne says. This strategy rakes every operation with a fine-toothed comb to improve profitability.

“At Manipal, IT is not compartmentalized under some other function, it’s very strategic.”

—Nandkishore Dhomne, chief information officer, Manipal Hospitals

For example, IT can help staff administer drugs. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) barcode tags scan medications and note expiry dates, amount used, and other parameters. When nurses return or leave with medication trays, the tracking system scans the tray components again to make sure the right medication is being sent out at the right time.

“We created an algorithm that alerts clinicians when a patient might be developing a transfusion reaction,” Owen says, stressing the importance of technology in context. MD Anderson created a “hema vigilance unit” that monitors transfusion reactions 24/7. Patient vitals such as temperature, blood pressure, and more feed the system. When all systems are normal, the system displays a green light, but discrepancies trigger yellow or red light so that professionals know to intervene.

“When you look at symptoms together rather than independently, you are [uniting] disparate information and allowing nurses and attending physicians to turn data into information and then action.”

—Craig Owen, chief information officer, MD Anderson Cancer Center

“When you look at symptoms together rather than independently, you are [uniting] disparate information and allowing nurses and attending physicians to turn data into information and then action,” Owen says.

The surest way to get IT professionals to see the impact they have on healthcare delivery is to actually walk them through the stages of patient care, continues Owen. With a patient’s permission, he guides database administrators through operating rooms and other care areas to see how their work is impacting lives. When IT team members see surgeons and nurses constantly relying on integrated dashboards to execute their complex operations, they have a new appreciation of the weight on their shoulders, Owen says.

Computing power through Dell Technologies resources underlies every technology segment at these global healthcare institutions. It empowers these hospitals to put patients first. “[Technology helps us] with our mission,” Owen says. “[It helps] make cancer history.”