Data is giving rise to better medical practice. Here’s how.


Data can save lives when it’s standardized, curated, and secure. Image: Canva.

What does good healthcare mean for each stakeholder? For patients, this could mean short wait times and positive interactions with healthcare professionals, especially when one is most vulnerable. For nurses, it could mean providing the best hands-on care until patients get better. For doctors, this could mean accurate diagnoses and prescriptions that ensure a speedy and full recovery for patients.

But for Alexis Edwards-turned-specialist in healthcare transformation, good healthcare means addressing all these needs holistically and reinventing healthcare systems through digitalization. It means developing strategies for population health and recommending digitally-enabled care strategies so that patients, caregivers and doctors alike benefit from optimized healthcare systems.

Edwards joined IBM as an Associate Partner in IBM UK’s Watson Health Consulting Industry Transformation Team to harness the power of data science, analytics and AI to support healthcare organizations in their digital journey. “I am truly inspired by the profound opportunity we have to responsibly disrupt healthcare through systems modernization and healthcare redesign, which I believe is an integral part of the current and future needs of healthy populations,” she says.

Edwards speaks to GovInsider about how governments in the UK, US and Singapore have used digital tools to improve patient experiences through more accurate and consolidated patient data.

Data saves lives

Strong data analytics platforms coupled with consolidated patient data can help healthcare organizations such as hospitals manage healthcare crises as they arise.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, hospitals around the world struggled to cope with the influx of patients, many of whom needed urgent and immediate treatment. In Ontario, Canada, North York General Hospital chose to respond to this healthcare management crisis with data analytics that provided physicians and nurses with real-time, easy-to-understand data.

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“As a member of the Incident Management team, the information on the Covid-19 dashboard gave me real-time access to key information such as Covid-19 admissions in ICU and acute care, the number of patients on ventilation and the number of tests performed, the Covid-19 19 Assessment Center,” said NYGH Clinical Director of Mental Health Program Sandy Marangos previously.

But the hospital’s digital transformation didn’t happen overnight, or just in response to an unforeseen and acute health crisis. Instead, it started in 2017 when NYGH used AI-powered IBM Cognos Analytics software to build a real-time patient dashboard that replaced at least 100 different static reports. This enabled doctors and nurses to see at a glance if a patient’s vital signs were abnormal and to react in a timely manner.

Such forward-thinking investments in future-proof data management technologies benefitted NYGH as the Covid-19 pandemic hit, potentially saving countless lives.

Elsewhere, Edwards highlights how the US national health insurance program, Medicare, has implemented data-driven quality measures in the delivery of health care. “This includes reviewing patient-reported experiences, which enables a feedback loop that ensures we can qualify and quantify the way care is delivered in a patient-centric manner,” she says.

“There is a great need for data standardization, curation and consolidation because, as we know, data saves lives. It allows us to look at the big picture, drive automation and personalize medicine, which is definitely something we will see as a growing need in the future,” adds Edwards.

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unite health systems

Consolidated data can help agencies better meet the needs of patients at the population level as population health strategies gather momentum around the world.

As the population ages, care needs to be reorganized in favor of team-based care. This means that much of the healthcare needs to be shifted from hospitals to GPs who are in the neighborhood e.g. B. in polyclinics.

Decentralized healthcare is shifting the focus from physician-centric acute diagnosis to long-term patient monitoring by healthcare professionals—a key requirement of older patients, who often struggle with chronic rather than acute conditions.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health, home to one of the world’s rapidly aging populations, has announced its intention to place connectivity at the heart of healthcare transformation as part of its broader healthcare strategy, Healthier SG. This means patient databases across primary, secondary and private healthcare facilities are brought together to ensure a seamless patient experience.

In addition, healthcare facilities are no longer allowed to work in silos. “The MOH will explore how we can provide GPs with better data support, such as giving them access to patient records and tools like clinical dashboards to better track patients’ conditions and health trends over time,” the government agency announced in March of year.

As part of this journey, the MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation has already begun offering forms of home care such as B. his program “Mobile stationary care at home”. This is supported by emerging telemedicine providers such as Speedoc, who are using cloud-based systems and robotic process automation (RPA) to ensure the quality of patient experiences does not degrade even with remote delivery.

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In the UK’s parallel path to integrating its health systems, the country’s national health system has sought to link clinical datasets – from local to national level datasets, across both primary and secondary sources.

This approach of using holistic social determinants of health is exemplary, says Edwards. “With the Multiple Deprivation Indices, which monitor income, employment, health, disability, crime and housing factors, the NHS is able to prioritize the allocation of resources across England,” she says. Only when these needs are properly identified can government rely on a wide range of community factors to improve overall health care outcomes.

User orientation at the heart of the joint development of solutions

The three main phases of the IBM Garage method are Co-Create, Co-Execute and Co-Operate. Image: IBM.

Finally, Edwards emphasizes the importance of user-centered design thinking, which can ensure that healthcare meets patients’ needs from the start. One such process is IBM’s garage method.

This methodology is at the heart of IBM’s approach to creating solutions that truly benefit end users across all industries. It involves designing technologies together with end users, followed by several rounds of beta testing before scaling and implementation.

“Quite often when we design [healthcare] solutions, we can fall into a pattern where we don’t really make sure those solutions have been tested…but it’s very important to make sure the solutions we create meet and exceed end-user expectations,” adds Edwards.

With a firm understanding of the role of data in transforming healthcare, governments will be on the path to taking conscious and informed steps to improve overall health outcomes nationally.



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