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Shifting healthcare needs: Why reactive care is no longer cutting it

Proactive care cultivates a two-way dialogue between patients and providers, painting a full picture of a patient’s condition and lessening the likelihood of sudden deterioration.

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This announcement is often followed by the frantic rush of nurses and a rapid response team, equipped with a defibrillator to shock the coding patient back to life. A scenario all too familiar to hospital staff, this describes reactive care – a system that waits for a problem to arise before jumping into action. Imagine instead, being able to anticipate a potential cardiac arrest and intervening before it happens. Proactive care cultivates a two-way dialogue between patients and providers, painting a full picture of a patient’s condition and lessening the likelihood of sudden deterioration.

The U.S. spends an estimated $3 trillion annually on healthcare, nearly double that of other developed nations. Despite this spending, U.S. health outcomes fall short. American tax dollars are not paying for higher quality care, but instead are compensating for care inefficiencies. A reactive approach often results in blaring alarms and frantic clinicians. Providers look to technology to improve these situations but certain types of solutions are a blessing and a curse. There are hundreds of medical devices within the four wall of a hospital, producing an infinite amount of data. Physicians are inundated with information and burdened with paperwork, leading to increased burnout and time-strapped doctors. With the U.S. currently spending 80 percent of its resources on the very sick, and with 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, how far can we stretch our physicians before they snap?

If providers are not proactive, the current system, unprepared for the challenges ahead, could sink under pressure. With the average emergency room (ER) visit costing upward of $2,100, a reactive model cannot sustainably treat 92 million senior citizens— a burden it will have to bear by 2060. Both expensive and inefficient, this approach will be unable to meet the needs of today’s rapidly growing patient population. So, should Americans prepare for an eternity of multi-trillion dollar reactive care? No. It is not that physicians cannot provide proactive care – they simply do not have the clinical insight and bandwidth to do it alone.

Smart health technology can help accelerate the transition from reactive to proactive patient care. Built with artificial intelligence (AI), this breed of technology can automate rote aspects of care and provide clinicians with virtually real-time, predictive alerts. These solutions are already playing a major role in care and management, offering everything from being able to screen for diabetic retinopathy, to spot cancer and vascular disease, screen chest X-rays for tuberculosis, and monitor a patient’s medication intake.

With its AI-capabilities, smart patient monitoring can automate manual vitals collection and proactively detect patient deterioration. Continuous data collection provides clinicians with a high resolution view of a patient’s vitals, and equips them with powerful trends to detect adverse events. Captured in near real-time, this can make clinician handoffs easier and more efficient. By implementing such solutions, this influx of clinical data can be converted to actionable insights, empowering clinicians to intervene and make the best care decisions for their patients. These devices can also adapt to specific patient populations’ monitoring needs. Using neural networks, this powerful type of monitoring technology is able to perform on incomplete and noisy data sets— critical due to the nature of most patient data. It additionally has the ability to “learn” from each patient, thus continuously improving its predictive capabilities.

Current monitoring devices alarm any time vitals fall slightly out-of-range, flooding clinicians with the constant false alarming. Much like “the boy that cried wolf” story, this approach compromises care. Alternatively, continuous monitors can prioritize and reduce non-actionable alarms, decreasing stress for clinical staff patients and their families. Clinicians are also able to make informed decisions and prioritize patients and administer care to those who need it sooner. With the ability to prioritize patients and gain unprecedented insights into a patient’s health, clinicians can now confidently intervene earlier and provide efficient and effective care throughout the hospital. Leveraging technology and investing in proactive care solutions, such as smart patient monitoring, to warn ahead of sudden deterioration could slash our country’s reactive spending— saving both lives and dollars.

An industry ripe with potential, AI will usher in a new era in healthcare, bringing about significant changes from the way doctors are trained to how they make decisions and deliver care. By empowering physicians with these transformative smart monitoring tools, man and machine together will be able to shift care from reactive to proactive – a feat neither can achieve alone.

Photo: Madmaxer, Getty Images

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