by Larry Stofko

Can innovation help curb medical mistakes?

Jun 20, 2017
Enterprise ApplicationsHealthcare Industry

Innovative technologies proving their worth in saving patient lives.

healthcare innovation
Credit: Thinkstock

Even with all the advances in patient care, medical error continues to take lives at 1,000 per day in the United States (Leapfrog – Spring 2017 Report). So what are we doing to reduce these numbers? The answer: Individuals and organizations like The Innovation Institute, who want to have a positive impact in health care, are developing and funding new technologies that are focused on reducing medical mistakes. Health care is an area where innovation is making a difference curbing medical mistakes to save patient lives. Here are some areas where progress is being made.

3D printing

Additive Manufacturing, or 3D printing, has been around since 1984. Today, technology advances are allowing health care to leverage 3D printing in many ways. 3D printing is used to develop shoes, textiles, jewelry, concept cars, robots and a variety of other industrial and consumer products. It is also becoming cost-effective and is finding its place more prominently in health care, and applications are abundant. Low-cost prosthetic parts, plastic implants, personalized casts, and printed biomaterials (ears, heart valves, bones, etc.) are some examples. 3D printing can help save lives. Last year, surgeons at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami used 3D printing to save a 4-year-old’s life, as shown on CNN. If traditional surgery preparation tools were employed, a small error or mistake during surgery could have cost the 4-year-old her life.

Some of the newest developments (by Northwestern University) include 3D printable biomedical material platforms, including cell-containing bio-printing and non-cell-containing inks that provide more options for complex soft and hard tissue engineering applications. At the Innovation Lab, an incubator within The Innovation Institute, this is a technology we leverage in developing innovative health care products.

Augmented and virtual reality

Augmented and virtual reality help eliminate human risk. As these technologies are used more, patient safety will improve and patient error will be reduced.

1) Augmented Reality (AR) – Healthcare IT solution leveraging AR, can help surgeons in the operating room be more effective during surgery and avoid errors. Devices such as Google Glasses or Microsoft HoloLens can be used by surgeons to get additional information about the patients.

2) Virtual Reality (VR) – VR surgical simulation for assessment, transfer of training skills, and certification of surgeons has been demonstrated to assist clinical staff in reducing errors. Practice makes perfect and VR allows for simulation of care without any risk to the patient.

Clinical decision support systems

Clinical decision support systems, which are computer applications that run on top of the Electronic Medical Record system to capture assessable data, can be a valuable tool for guiding the clinician with diagnosis and care pathways. As a result, they can alert the clinician with oncoming misdiagnosis or errors. Although this information technology has been around for a while, it has yet to be advanced on a national level. However, with changes in the health care payment model to reward quality over volume, we may see this adapted more widely in the coming years.

Technological medical solutions are proliferating more than in any other period of time in our history. We are seeing costs come down because of a more competitive space that many industries are capitalizing on. Our major challenges are acceptance and training to guarantee that new and less risky medical treatments built around technology are embraced for patient care.

Innovations, Inventions, Ideas

Health system medical professionals on the frontlines of patient care are developing medical procedures and devices that are better and safer, sometimes even breakthrough and transformative. Many of these inventions and ideas are designed around reducing error.

Sepsis is the leading cause of deaths in hospitals. AcesoCloud, a cloud based sepsis care management and analytics platform helps care teams manage and treat sepsis patients effectively while maintaining compliance. Through the platform’s rich analytics modules, hospitals can gain much needed insights into quality of care, costs and implement sustainable sepsis care management programs. AcesoCloud has helped a 650-bed Southern California hospital decrease its sepsis mortality rate to lower than the national average, achieve close to 20% reduction in average cost, and reduce length of stay in the ICU by about one day, without a significant dip in reimbursement.

Other products that improve safety and reduce risk are under development across the U.S. and around the world. Within the next few years, as these new technologies are adopted, we are going to see the patient death rate decrease significantly.