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Point-of-Care Technologies Offer Outstanding Opportunities for Patient Care

28 Oct 2014 by Christine Kern

When paired with education, guidance and oversight, point-of-care technologies provide peak performance

With the emerging technological innovations in healthcare, including smart and portable biosensors, computing advances, information and communications technologies, and wearable devices, Point-of-Care (POC) technologies are transforming the healthcare landscape. Point-of-care technologies are effective means of reducing costs, and improving efficiency and patient outcomes. Additionally, implementing these tools can be critical for responding to essential healthcare needs among large populations and in rural areas.

Capture clinical data and streamline workflow

Implementation of point-of-care technologies can be daunting without the appropriate education, guidance and oversight of available options, regulations, compliance issues and necessary infrastructures.

When properly integrated into a healthcare system, point-of-care technologies allow healthcare providers to capture clinical data quickly and accurately, and streamline workflow and efficiency for healthcare workers. This can ultimately ensure consistency and accuracy of patient health information from point-of-care, internally and across healthcare systems, and improve patient outcomes and bedside patient engagement.

Benefit from new opportunities in patient care and engagement

New opportunities emerging on the healthcare landscape aim to improve patient care and engagement. Among the recent innovations is a mobile monitoring solution that uses patient analytics to help predict declining health in acute and critically ill patients. The technology is currently under development by AirStrip and IBM in conjunction with the University of Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care.

Another recent development is the Canary Breath Delta Value analyzer, which detects infection using a breath sample. This technology has the potential to have far-reaching implications for improving patient care and outcomes in a wide range of conditions. The Canary analyzer can detect infection within two hours of onset, giving healthcare providers new opportunities to proactively manage patient health. Other possible applications include a proposed smart neonatal incubator that continually monitors the breath of premature infants for signs of sepsis, which has been identified as a leading cause of mortality in intensive care units, according to Med City News.

Gain better screening and detection at the point-of-care

In a recent review in Science Translational Medicine, Stephen A. Boppart, professor of bioengineering, electrical and computer engineering, and medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, noted, “Leveraging advances in consumer electronics and wireless telecommunications, low-cost, portable optical imaging devices have the potential to improve screening and detection of disease at the point-of-care in primary health care settings in both low and high resource countries.”

“Because the point-of-care is critical for identifying disease early, an effective strategy would be to apply imaging technology at this front line, where diseases could be detected and appropriate treatment could be initiated more rapidly,” Boppart said.

“We also have the ability to incorporate their personal Netflix or Skype accounts,” says Rudy Loremo, IT special projects manager at Texas Health Alliance. “Initially we wanted to have a corporate Netflix account, but Netflix had never done that before. So, they’ve added it to their R&D docket.”

Boppart highlights an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scanner for primary care imaging. This handheld unit with a built-in screen integrates both video-based surface imaging and depth-resolved OCT images to provide real-time microscopic assessment of tissue sites commonly examined in primary care, including the eyes, ears, skin, mouth and teeth.

Boppart asserts, “Although many optical imaging technologies have been translated from bench to bedside, industry support is needed to commercialize and broadly disseminate these from the patient level to the population level to transform the standard of care.”

Ultimately, he concludes, “Inadequate screening in primary care settings leads to inappropriate referral, where opportunities for early detection and treatment can be missed, or patients can be unnecessarily referred to a higher level of care, increasing associated costs of care. Inadequate diagnosis can further delay treatment.”

Implement a behavioral shift to ensure tech-enhanced point-of-care is successful

The implementation of point-of-care healthcare technologies poses formidable challenges, including educating healthcare workers and patients on technology usage, data communication, compliance and understanding. The implementation of point-of-care will require a behavioral change, and caregivers and patients must realize and accept a new role and responsibility in keeping themselves, family members or others healthy.

Integrate an infrastructure to support technology and improve patient outcomes

The future of point-of-care technologies requires the development of new skills and capabilities, paired with the proper infrastructure. To offer the best this new technology has to offer, the infrastructure must include faster Wi-Fi to allow for the use of mobile devices, a secure network to protect patient and hospital data and a bigger data center, whether on-site, off-site or in the Cloud, to store electronic medical records. And it is vital to couple these IT solutions with the proper education and training for staff members.

When healthcare providers are given the tools and guidance to integrate these technologies effectively and efficiently into their point-of-care, the result will be improved patient outcomes, heightened patient engagement, and reduction of costs and waste. During a time when patients have the choice of going to any healthcare organization for treatment, technology and real-time solutions that provide more accurate and effective care can lead to greater patient satisfaction and an increase in patient referrals.