Hospitals, Health IT

How clinical surveillance is making its mark in healthcare

Hospitals primarily seem to be using their EHRs as clinical surveillance solutions, which seek to pinpoint the early onset of deteriorating conditions in patients, according to a Spyglass Consulting Group report.

tech, technology, interoperability, health IT

As technology becomes more advanced, healthcare organizations have the opportunity to zoom in on patients who have deteriorating conditions. That’s where clinical surveillance comes in.

A report from Menlo Park, California-based Spyglass Consulting Group, appropriately titled “Healthcare Without Bounds: Trends in Clinical Surveillance and Analytics,” analyzed the field and why hospitals should be paying attention.

To gather information for the report, Spyglass surveyed 30 clinical informatics leaders at health systems across the country.

Clinical surveillance solutions rely on real-time patient data and historical data. By applying analytics to that information, the tools are able to pinpoint the early onset of deteriorating conditions. Such solutions are found in settings like emergency rooms, operating rooms and ICUs.

Health systems glean numerous benefits from implementing these tools, including potentially reducing a patient’s length of stay, addressing compliance with regulatory issues and reducing costs.

The solutions themselves can come from various potential sources. One such possibility is EHR vendors.

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“We’re seeing the EHR vendors seem to be the approach many organizations are utilizing,” Gregg Malkary, Spyglass’ managing director, said in a phone interview. The companies are “extending the value of their system by providing a series of algorithms for a specific condition or disease state.”

Third-party vendors are also getting in on the action. Oftentimes these third-party clinical surveillance tools are integrated with the EHR and can access clinical and non-clinical data from sources throughout the organization.

Malkary noted most hospitals are leveraging their expensive EHRs as an investment in clinical surveillance. But said systems do come with their own set of complications.

“The issue with EHR vendors is their tools aren’t considered best of breed,” he said. “Their tools require customization. That’s actually quite problematic.”

The EHR is a good starting point, Malkary noted. But he urged health systems to look at the bigger picture and identify the importance of real-time elements of tools.

Additionally, it’s crucial to realize there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.Because a vendor’s solution is strong in one core measure (such as sepsis) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great at keeping track of another (like cardiac monitoring).

Overall, Malkary said many of the hospital leaders involved in the survey recognize the benefits and capabilities of clinical surveillance and analytics. “They understand the problem. There have just been a lot of false starts to date,” he added.

And that issue is exacerbated by vendors overhyping their tools’ capabilities. Hospitals in the report were skeptical about vendors’ claims, especially those around IBM Watson, Malkary said.

Photo: MATJAZ SLANIC, Getty Images