Effective data management for the hospitals of tomorrow

3rd September 2018
Alex Lynn

According to a recent report compiled by four leading UK organisations, patient and pharmaceutical data has ‘the potential to significantly transform healthcare’. It makes sense therefore that the huge amount of data available to today’s healthcare providers is captured and utilised effectively.

However, this is often easier said than done, when attempting to manage data in multiple situations and scenarios, across various trusts and locations. And although clinical and administrative data can be used to improve a wide range of products and services, such as diagnostic errors, internal care coordination and drug safety, patient safety remains the primary driver for its efficient use.

Kevin Allart, European Healthcare Business Manager at SATO, stated: “A holistic approach to managing patient data in healthcare is historically very difficult to achieve. The reality is that various hospital workers will use multiple devices to process and allocate data for a wide range of applications.

“Trying to reconcile this information into relevant and actionable insights is no mean feat. However, tech savvy patients, whose expectations have evolved in line with the technological revolution, are less accepting of a disjointed approach to their safety. So, it’s definitely an area that businesses throughout the healthcare supply chain are working on addressing.”

Patient safety issues in 2018

Earlier this year, Health Data Management, listed its ‘10 Patient Safety Issues Plaguing Healthcare in 2018’. The issues, which range from specific concerns such as opioid safety to general challenges including emergency preparedness, all have something in common. They can be processed more effectively with improved data management, contributing to a wider solution and enhanced patient care.

Allart continued: “Medical emergencies are a daily reality for emergency room staff. A lack of effective resources in these situations can compound the danger that emergency patients are in by forcing hospital employees to focus on routine administration tasks, such as paperwork, rather than focusing on the urgent medical matters at hand.

“Staff attempting to deal with these kinds of emergencies should be free to focus solely on saving patient lives, without worrying about accessing and processing patient data. When utilised correctly, patient information has the ability to empower employees by giving them the freedom to focus on their specialisms. Sadly, the use of outmoded equipment often has the opposite, limiting effect.”

Workarounds are a common occurrence in today’s healthcare institutions to combat system flaws, particularly where technology is concerned. Whilst workarounds offer a quick fix, they often result in series of ‘bolt on’ processes that work in tandem but not concurrently.

On-demand printing of patient data, for example, is typically created using multiple devices. This means that items such as patient ID wristbands and inpatient or laboratory labels, which carry barcoded data for the same patient, may vary in quality and accuracy. Employees become used to working with different devices to access and print this data but lament the lack of streamlined resources.

In fact, over 50% of SATO healthcare customers say that they would prefer an easy to use, compact device that can support both wristband and inpatient label requirements. The effect of such a device is twofold; to save time and resources and to improve data quality and accuracy. 

Streamlined data printing for the hospitals of tomorrow

In answer to its customer’s requirement for a multipurpose label printer for healthcare, SATO has developed the WS2, an all-in-one hygienic two inch compact printer. The direct thermal desktop printer is capable of printing both patient ID wristbands and inpatient labels from one device and importantly, from one handy location.

Allart explained: “Users no longer have to deal with the frustration of locating and loading different consumables in multiple devices. Wristbands and labels are easily loaded into the one device and its specially designed calibration setting ensures that wastage is kept to a minimum, supporting sustainability targets.

“Users can control and configure the WS2 with its dedicated setting tool as well as via a web browser. The Cerner accredited device is easily integrated in to HIS/EMR systems, drawing accurate, up-to-date data wherever and whenever hospital staff need it. This offers peace of mind to time-poor users, which is invaluable in empowering staff to work autonomously in stressful environments.

“SATO auto-ID solutions are currently in use in healthcare scenarios around the world. The ability to print high-quality barcodes to labels and wristbands extends enhanced traceability to a wide range of applications.

“For example, for drugs administration control, barcoded labels in medicine kits can be scanned at nursing care points to verify that the correct dose is allocated to the right patient. In admissions, personnel can generate barcoded wristbands that allow immediate identification and access to critical information during a patient’s hospital stay.

“With SATO complete solutions, we aim to take something that is complex and time consuming, the allocation of patient and pharmaceutical data for patient safety< and streamline it in to one user-friendly system. Ultimately, our end-user is looking for technology that helps, rather than hinders, them. It’s as simple as that.”

Recognising that a new printer in isolation does not provide the customer with a comprehensive answer to outdated systems, SATO’s complete solution approach comprises full support for the end-user, including hardware, consumables (patient ID wristbands and labels) and service (set up and integration support).

To complement its complete solutions offer for healthcare, SATO has certainly designed the WS2 printer with the modern end-user in mind. The device is over 20% smaller than equivalent models on the market and lightweight at only one kilogramme. A faster-than-average seven inch/sec print speed with a robust disinfectant-ready, antimicrobial casing and hassle-free media loading, are all features that contribute to its easy ‘pick-up-and-play’ functionality.

Healthcare of tomorrow: Evolving needs and systems for data management

Moving forward, the need for traceability in healthcare will remain a key factor in patient safety. In a wider context however, government safety regulations such as GS1 compliance for drug labelling will jostle alongside new end-user trends for transparency and greater control. These conflicting factors could create an interesting melting pot for data management.

A recent development that highlights this need to combine current trends with the management of core data is a project between New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital and design studio Cactus, who teamed up to create Lab 100; a hybrid clinic and research lab that empowers patients to track their own health. At Lab 100, patients can test everything from their vital signs to brain health.

Trend Watching describes this innovative approach as ‘a trip to the doctor that becomes a well-designed, human-centred, visual, data-driven experience.’2 As patient expectations continue to evolve, healthcare providers must consider new and different approaches to data management or risk being left behind in an increasingly end-user dictated world.

Allart commented: “SATO auto-ID and labelling solutions can be likened to one piece of the puzzle. By taking away some of the core frustrations of the user, and making traceability easier, we allow them to ensure patient safety, whatever the application.

“All data collected, whether through the processes of established institutions or through innovative new clinics such as Lab 100, should now be allocated to the correct drugs, specimens and patients to ensure full traceability at all times.

“The key point of difference for customers utilising SATO solutions, however, is the ‘one-stop’ service we provide in terms of hardware, consumables and service. Plus, an in-depth understanding of end-user challenges. For our customers, we don’t just aim to allocate data but to make it relevant in whatever way really matters to them.”

Turning potentially huge datasets across multiple systems and geographies into manageable, actionable patient insights is reflective of the cross-pollination of ideas from across industries, which is currently flourishing thanks to the digitalisation trend. As a leader in auto-identification technology and labelling solutions, SATO has the ability to support this kind of collaborative approach with its advanced track and trace expertise.

For the modern patient and tech-savvy user, a collaborative approach to data management in healthcare might just be what the doctor ordered.

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