Sun | Nov 18, 2018

Health + Tech | Reducing hospital stay with technology

Published:Sunday | August 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMDoug Halsall

Hospitals worldwide seek to reduce the length of time patients are admitted as this not only saves the facility resources but it can also be safer for the patient to be treated and released as soon as possible.

According to a study conducted by the Imperial College London, Imperial College Business School, South Kensington, London, UK, a hospital stay carries a 5.5 per cent risk of an adverse drug reaction, 17.6 per cent risk of infection, and 3.1 per cent risk of ulcer for an average episode. Each additional night in hospital increases the risk by 0.5 per cent for adverse drug reactions, 1.6 per cent for infections, and 0.5 per cent for ulcers.

Researchers also found that a seven-night stay carried a 6.1 per cent chance of an adverse reaction to a drug because of an error, or unknown allergy, and a 2.5 per cent chance of a pressure ulcer from not being moved enough.

Hospitals generally spend a lot of time trying to figure out what ails the patient, based on symptoms and what could be causing them. They also do some trial and error with medication to see which would work. These are some of the factors which contribute to longer admission periods for patients and threaten patient safety.

Luckily, over the last 10 years or so, we have seen an exponential growth in the use and development of health technology. These advancements have had a positive effect on efficiency, safety, cost and decision making where healthcare is concerned.

Technology can facilitate the use of evidence-based medicine that results in quicker diagnoses and better treatment options. The patient's electronic medical record (EMR) supported by several other resources will be central to this objective. This would make for more precise testing, evaluation and conclusions that would aid the medical practitioner to determine the right course of treatment quickly.

The technology allows each section, relevant to the patient's care, to contribute to his/her electronic records and provide each with the information needed to make better and more accurate decisions.

 

BEST TREATMENT REGIME

 

This can aid in facilitating a more speedy diagnosis. Using the EMR, the technology can allow the hospital to create a patient treatment and care plan from admission to discharge. This way the doctor will be privy to past diagnoses, previous prescriptions, treatment regimes and recommendations, family history and anything else that may affect the individual's health.

An electronic system with an EMR will allow the medical practitioner to be able to quickly obtain more accurate and fulsome information on the patient. Paper records are frequently lost and take time to find, which delays care and treatment.

In addition, these paper records may be incomplete and may not factor in information that was not obtained from the facility of admission. EMR solves these issues.

Doctors are not infallible, and with frequent research and rapid changes in medicine, an electronic doctor's reference guide can be very useful. Using these tools, the doctor can get input on any information he/she wants confirmed from colleagues in the particular areas being researched instantly.

The same can be done to determine which drug or combination thereof may be best to treat the illness once diagnosed. Electronic drug information and referencing repository is useful to assist with getting the patient on a treatment regime best suited for his/her needs, while instantly checking drug allergies and interactions, food/drug interactions and the best options and mix of drugs for the illnesses identified.

A combination of technology tools can have an immediate and positive effect on reducing the length of stay in hospitals. While the length of stay at hospitals can also be an indication of the facility's level of efficiency, one has to be very careful in ensuring that when making such an assessment several factors are considered before conclusions on the matter are made.

Therefore, any intervention that safely reduces length of stay will have a positive impact all around. The trick to addressing this issue and ensuring heightened efficiency is to balance length of stay with providing the best and most efficient healthcare delivery possible. Technology, of course, can accommodate this.

- Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Feedback: Doug.halsall@gmail.com.