Technology and digitalization have been present in the healthcare sector for years. A necessary transformation that has become even more evident with the pandemic and its consequences in aspects as complex and important as surgical waiting lists. Faced with a medical need, the system must be able to respond as quickly as possible because time is everything. At MYSPHERA we know that time is vital, which is why our main objective is to ensure that health professionals can invest it in the most important thing: the patients.
It is precisely this key benefit that José Antonio Delgado Osuna, deputy provincial director of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Cordoba, echoes in an interview conducted by the specialized media Redacción Médica. Delgado emphasizes the fundamental value of being able to reduce administrative processes, allowing a closer relationship with the patient and, therefore, humanizing healthcare.
Why is it important to promote humanization in hospitals, how has progress been made in this area in recent years, and has there been a noticeable improvement in this time?
Humanization is a necessity and, at the same time, a reality that is increasingly evident in all hospitals. When we talk about humanization, we mean listening to and trying to meet the needs of all the people who live in and pass through a hospital (professionals, patients, and relatives) in the best possible way, whether these needs are healthcare, social or technological.
Despite the dichotomy that may seem to exist between technology and humanization, since the pandemic, technology has helped to bring the healthcare system closer to patients or, in general, to users. In this sense, technological tools are serving as a very fluid and efficient means of communication between professionals and patients, to the point that we are managing to have patients who are already very well informed about their health process. This is of great value because they take an active part in the decision-making chain within their health process.
Technological tools such as, for example, teleconsultation are preventing patients from having to go to the hospital when it is not necessary, or systems such as surgical traceability of patients are reducing the stress of relatives who are in the waiting room of an operating theatre waiting for their loved one to undergo surgery.
How does MYSPHERA’s technology help to reduce stress for patients’ relatives?
All of us who have faced a surgical procedure at some point in time are aware that it causes great stress in the family environment, especially if they stay in the waiting room because they don’t hear anything more about their loved one until the healthcare professionals come out to report on how the surgery went.
Although the family member who remains in the waiting room may think that their loved one is going straight to the operating theatre when they say goodbye, the truth is that – in most cases – this is not the situation. The patient enters the surgical block and usually goes to a preparation bay, where he or she is prepared and has to wait for the operating theatre to become free. He then goes to the operating theatre and then, when the surgery is over, he goes to the resuscitation area.
However, the family member who is outside all this time thinks that the process is only one and that he or she is always inside the operating theatre. This generates great uncertainty because the operation is taking longer than the surgeon initially told him and, by default, he thinks that something is going wrong when the reality is not like that.
A surgical patient traceability system such as MYSPHERA’s allows the family member in the waiting room to be continuously informed in real-time of the situation of their loved one. They see their status on a screen anonymously and know whether they are in preparation, in the operating theatre, or in resuscitation. Thus, much of the uncertainty and stress is reduced, although not one hundred percent because the doubt as to whether or not it will go well will always remain.
Despite the dichotomy between technology and humanization, in these years of pandemics, it has been shown that digitalization has served to bring people closer together. What advantages have these advances offered in a hospital?
A surgical traceability system such as the one we have set up at the Reina Sofia Hospital has also brought great advantages for the professionals, as those who are in the surgical block have real-time information on everything that is happening within that surgical block: they know the level of occupation of the operating theatres, whether the estimated planning is being delayed, brought forward or is being fulfilled as planned, and they also know the status of each patient at any given time.
In this way, these professionals only have to dedicate themselves to healthcare. They do not also have to search for patients or record data because this surgical traceability system does it automatically. In short, all that time is dedicated to the patient.
MYSPHERA’s technology reduces administrative tasks: “Professionals only have to focus on healthcare”.
In healthcare, there is a constant reference to the need to reduce the administrative tasks of healthcare professionals so that they can focus more on the patient. How does MYSPHERA’s technology help to achieve this?
Using strategically placed sensors and a wristband with a CT scanner that is attached to the patient’s wrist, all of the patient’s conditions are automatically recorded. In this way, everyone has real-time information which, in turn, is very valuable for managers to be able to analyze whether or not the planning they made for the interventions and surgical occupations of that day was correct.
On some occasions they will be able to see that it has been oversubscribed, putting in more patients than could actually be dealt with, and on other occasions, it will be determined that it has been under-subscribed. Therefore, by looking back at how surgical planning has evolved, they can make decisions for future planning.
Almost every day we hear of new medical advances and/or innovative therapies that improve clinical care. Do you think it is also essential to do research into other aspects that are not exclusively clinical, such as the development of applications, instruments, or tools aimed at humanizing the way care is provided?
Just as new treatments, new drugs, and new therapies bring great value to healthcare, innovation and research in information technology are essential. In fact, today, we know of many examples that are providing great value.
In this sense, the surgical traceability system brings great value in terms of humanization and regulatory compliance in terms of patient privacy. There are also other technological systems that provide patient safety such as, for example, safe medication administration systems that alert when you try to give a patient a treatment that was not prescribed. All of this has an impact on improving the quality of healthcare.
Although great advances have been made in recent years, do you think there is still a long way to go in this area, and is there still a lot of room for improvement in personalized and close patient care?
Yes. The implementation of new technologies is now being exploited and, although the pandemic has been a very important trigger, we are still in a very incipient moment in which advances are being encouraged to emerge that bring a lot of quality to everything that is happening to us. I am sure that many technologies will be developed in the very short term that we cannot even imagine today.
“Artificial intelligence is not going to replace, under any circumstances, the health professional”.
What do you consider to be the most urgent needs to be covered at the present time?
On the one hand, to try to make medicine more personalized with systems that can alert or recommend to the doctor certain actions for the patient. There are already some automatic learning systems based on artificial intelligence that are providing great value in this regard. However, in no case are they going to replace the healthcare professional because he or she is essential in this whole process, although this is the main way in which we can improve right now.
As we have mentioned, the tool that MYSPHERA has developed has reduced the stress of family members who have a loved one in the operating theatre. In addition to helping the patient’s immediate family, how is it helping healthcare professionals?
It is helping healthcare professionals by providing them with real-time information about what is happening inside the operating theatre. In a system like this, certain large screens are placed in different areas where the evolution of that day’s surgical process is visually monitored, so that you can see at all times how the operating theatres are doing, if there is an operating theatre that has a problem, as well as whether the planning is ahead or behind schedule. In short, it is helping them not to waste time and, very quickly, to locate any information needed to manage the surgical block that day.
It allows professionals to obtain all the information they need to manage the operating theatre “very quickly”.
How has the tool been received by all hospital staff, and what are the most immediate benefits that professionals have found in using it?
The reception, in general, has been quite good. As with any system that is implemented in a hospital, at the beginning there are detractors and some who are a little more skeptical. However, as soon as they see its usefulness, those who initially had a more doubtful view quickly change their minds because the system provides great value. The advantages it offers are the ones I mentioned before: visualizing all the information that these professionals may need.
Do you think resources are being used more efficiently?
Yes, although our hospital has not yet managed to exploit all the information generated by the system one hundred percent, it does give a very important insight into how well or how badly we are doing this surgical planning. In fact, it can help those in charge of scheduling to find out where they are failing and, based on that, make future decisions. It is also seamlessly integrated with the patient’s medical record and therefore provides very valuable information.
At the management level, has it helped to improve the organization and performance of the hospital?
Yes, because a manager needs data and the information that is automatically generated is very close to reality, almost one hundred percent. There is an Anglo-Saxon saying that says Garbage in, garbage out, which means that if you are introducing poor quality data into a system, the information you are going to get is also of poor quality.
In short, the more automated the generation of this information is, the higher quality is. It makes it possible to identify problems with greater precision and, consequently, to make better decisions in the greatest possible number of cases or, at least, to make the most correct decision at any given moment.
To what extent has this tool helped in the measurement of data?
To the radical extent that before, there was practically no information, the little that there was, was collected manually in the operating theatre book. All of this resulted in estimates when there was data that you forgot to include, for example, approximate hours and not exact ones. Now, that information is reliable and is never forgotten because it is automatic.
Has it been easy to incorporate this new work tool in the hospital, and how has the process of adaptation to it been for the healthcare staff?
We have set up a MYSPHERA team at the Reina Sofía Hospital with the participation of professionals from the healthcare field (doctors and nursing staff), from the field of management and administration and, of course, from the Information and Communication Technology Service (ICT) and MYSPHERA, who were practically the ones leading the process.
In addition, we also took the opportunity to review our own internal process and check whether it was indeed the best we had or whether there was room for improvement. Once implemented, and with the help of MYSPHERA, there was training for professionals to learn how to use this tool.
The adaptation process was quite gradual and, in each of the phases, we were assisted by company employees who helped the newly trained staff. As a result, we have managed to ensure that the professionals have incorporated this technology into their day-to-day work as just another tool.
Would you encourage other hospitals to incorporate the MYSPHERA system in their facilities?
Yes, of course. A surgical patient traceability system helps to reduce stress and preserve patient confidentiality. But I would not only encourage them to set up this system, I would also encourage them to evaluate any system that exists on the market and adds value to a hospital’s care process chain.
As healthcare managers, we are obliged to thoroughly evaluate these kinds of tools because, although there are many technologies out there right now, not all of them are good for everything. We have to be critical and look at all advances from a perspective of efficiency and sustainability in order to take into account their possible implementation in a hospital.
In short, before making any decision, look at the three pillars: that it adds value and that it is seen from an efficiency-sustainability perspective.
Before incorporating any system, consider whether it adds value and complies with the principles of efficiency and sustainability.
Finally, how can you help to humanize patient care?
A system like MYSPHERA can bring a great deal of humanization to the hospital, but at the same time, this can be extrapolated to any other system that is valuable. We have to focus on doing our work in the best possible way, incorporating the concept of humanization into our DNA.
We all like to be treated well wherever we go, even more so in a health center where you go not for the sake of it, but because you have no choice but to go.