Healthcare News & Insights

Health IT of tomorrow: 2 new tools to watch

To keep up with the demands for value-based care, hospitals will have to turn to new health IT tools like predictive analytics to improve their operations. But do the potential benefits outweigh the cost of investment? 

535935097 (2)According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the answer is “yes” — at least when it comes to predictive analytics.

Predicting surgery infections

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has been using a predictive analytic software to reduce the number of surgery-related infections, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The hospital first began implementing the analytic tool in 2012, and saw the rate of infections related to colon surgeries fall by 58% over two years, says Dr. John Cromwell, the facility’s associate chief medical officer and director of surgical quality and safety.

According to Dr. Cromwell, the software can predict which patients are at the highest risk for infection by using data from medical records and details from the procedure, such as patient’s vital signs entered in real-time during the operation.

With that information, doctors can plan how to reduce that risk before the patient leaves the operating room by using different methods to treat wounds or tailoring the patient’s post-surgery care and medications.

Post-surgery care often varies across hospitals, and even across units within the same facility, Dr. Cromwell notes. However, the software allows surgeons to compare information and make more precise decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Hospitals have been under increasing pressure from federal regulators to cut down on hospital-acquired infections and patient readmissions. Predictive analytic tools offer one potential way to improve outcomes and reduce those rates. However, it’s important to understand the benefits of such an investment likely will take time to develop.

Next big thing?

Predictive analytic tools are just one emerging technology where hospitals are beginning to see a strong return on investment.

Another new tool that could have a big impact on hospital operations is additives manufacturing — more commonly known as 3D printing, believes Lori Semlies, a healthcare attorney and partner at the firm Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP. This method allows computer-generated images to be created or “printed” in three-dimensional form using plastic.

The technology allows for very precise customization, and could be used to create prosthetic limbs, joints and bones for a much cheaper rate.

According to Semlies, progress has already been made using 3D printing technology to create prosthetics of human tissue using patients’ own DNA.

More research needs to be conducted on the long-term pros and cons of 3D printing, but the potential for what the technology could accomplish is exciting.

And although wide-spread 3D printing may be some years away, it still highlights the importance of hospital leaders to research new health IT and weigh potential benefits for their facilities’ operations.

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