Have hospitals begun the digital transformation? What are the latest digital innovations in the healthcare sector? What will medicine be like in the future? How advanced is France in digital healthcare?
We talked about the deployment of digital technology in hospitals with Raphaël Mastier, head of development for healthcare at Microsoft France.
THE ADVANTAGES OF digital FOR hospitals
Where digital is concerned, how far have hospitals come?
“Historically, digital has never been considered as strategic for hospitals.”
Raphaël Mastier: Hospitals have gradually fallen further and further behind where digital is concerned. As investments have been pretty low, solutions have been implemented but not refreshed and so have now become totally obsolete. IT assets are very fragmented, which makes deployment and interoperability very complicated so that now we need to change a lot of things.
What about data in the hospital sector?
“Healthcare is one of the industries that produces the most data, and yet, paradoxically, exploits it the least.”
There are three types of data: medical, administrative and financial. If this data were better exploited, we could not only give valuable assistance to doctors and hospital Management but contribute to the overall prevention effort.”
We offer analytics and monitoring solutions. At Saint Joseph hospital, for example, we rolled out business intelligence tools which have enabled them to optimise bed occupation rates and waiting times in Accident & Emergency. Staff realised the potential of the data they have and can now manage, monitor and anticipate the running of the hospital more effectively.
“What we’re going to see more and more is predictive analytics, or machine learning, i.e. the ability to analyse volumes of upstream information s in order to improve the way or a system or organisation works.”
With predictive analytics, we can calculate the emergency room waiting time based on an analysis made over several years. That way we can plan the necessary staff and resources. Another example: with machine learning, by analysing all the data from patients being treated in hospital for a certain illness, we’ll be able to determine when is the best time to discharge them – without having to re-admit them a week later. Machine learning will enable hospitals to organise more efficiently.
A STEP TOWARDS SHARING hOSpital IT SYSTEMS
Another hot topic: cloud computing.
“Strange as it may sound, data will be made more secure by outsourcing it.”
Hospitals are not data security specialists. The cloud can offer both data security capabilities and flexibility for deployments. Hospitals will no longer have to develop services in-house, they just consume them in their working environment. This way of working will change the way hospitals are organised in the future.
What’s your methodology? How do you work with hospitals?
We have an ecosystem of partners, such as Econocom, for example, all over the country. Microsoft’s solutions are often rolled out at hospitals by these partners. But when necessary, we can send in one of our consultants to help ensure the solution is running correctly.
We also have hospitals that come to us with specific issues that need to be addressed. That’s what happened with St Joseph’s hospital, who wanted to analyse their data in order to optimise organisation.
Collaboration and private social networks is also crucial as they enable better communication between the various departments of a hospital. We are very proactive in this area and can show them examples of what has worked with other clients. Sometimes we use examples that aren’t even from the healthcare sector to explain what we can do from a technological standpoint and how that can help staff. Then once we’ve given these ideas, we work on a specific project either with our partners or directly with the client.
STAFF FRUSTRATED WITH THE SLOW DEPLOYMENT OF NEW technologies
How are staff reacting to the digital transformation?
“Where staff are concerned, we often have problems with digital obsolescence.”
Healthcare professionals working at a hospital expects to use the latest digital solutions, and they’re often frustrated because hospitals get behind with rolling out technology so the solutions available aren’t exactly state-of-the-art.
We also have the opposite situation, i.e. hospitals that are very advanced and offer technologies that staff aren’t entirely comfortable with. That’s what happens sometimes with private social networks, for example. When they’re implemented, there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of change management. We usually use our partners for this and they work with the client’s human resources team or the in-house IT deployment team.
And what about patients? How can they benefit from new technologies?
“A patient’s perception of a hospital depends on what he or she experiences during this/her hospital stay. The patient room is therefore a showroom for the hospital.”
The more connected hospital rooms there are, the more positive patients’ perception of hospitals will be. Look at Lille university hospital and its digital bedside terminals. Patients have access to a range of added-value services: they can telephone, go online, watch TV, and all this increases their comfort and reduces stress. And when a doctor or nurse comes into the room, they can switch to the business application tool via the same touch screen.
Patients are also increasingly demanding more information about their condition and treatment: when they’re admitted to hospital, they go through a series of examinations but they don’t always know exactly when they’re going to have treatment or the name of the doctor administering it.
“Possibly in the future, when patients are admitted to hospital, they’ll have a smartphone app giving them real-time information on the treatment they’re due to have.”
In the States, they’re beginning to give patients access to their electronic medical records, meaning patients are more empowered. But this is still new in France.
To analyse patients’ or users’ perception of healthcare services in a particular town or area, hospitals can look at feedback on social networks. This will give them the information they need to monitor their transformation in terms of people’s perception.
FacilitATING HOME CARE
In order to remain competitive, hospitals need to reduce the length of hospital stays and there will be more and more home care. In Paris, public hospitals have rolled out Windows tablets to ensure more effective monitoring of patients at home and coordination between the various carers. Nurses on house calls can use tablets as a sort of paperless medical monitoring tool that is synchronised with the hospital’s IT system.
“The hospital room will become a link in a chain which is held together by digital.”
We are involved in digital projects both in preparation for the hospital stay to ensure they’re optimised in terms of the patient’s profile, and after they’re discharged, when connected devices are used for remote monitoring.
How does France compare with the rest of the world in this field?
In France, we’re held back by very complex regulations that can hinder the development of startups. In the States, it’s easier for startups in the healthcare sector.
“We have some very innovative companies in the healthcare sector and even more in wellbeing. We’re also very advanced where medical equipment is concerned, such as operating theatres and artificial hearts. And yet, when you look at digital and the rate of IT equipment in hospitals, we’re still very much behind – some are even still using paper. There’s a real contradiction.”
In other countries, particularly in Scandinavia, hospitals invest much more in digital, and their IT systems are far more up to date. And once the digital infrastructure is modern, you can build services much more easily.
“There’s a big focus on digital and that will mean major digital transformation projects can be rolled out in hospitals.”
Photo credit: GotCredit – Health / Flickr.com / Licence CC BY 2.0