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Healthcare Investors Most Focused On Health IT Sector

Posted on December 18, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

There are lots of ways to pick up a stake in the business, but health IT is healthcare investors’ favorite place to sink their money, according to a new survey by KPMG and Leavitt Partners.  In fact, as you see below, the investors are willing to pay a premium for positions in such companies.

In September and October, KPMG and Leavitt surveyed 175 respondents about their healthcare investment plans. The two found that 34% of respondents were most interested in investing health IT, followed by care management (31%), home health (23%), retail-centric medical groups (22%) and primary care practices (21%).

Before you get the warm fuzzies, it’s worth noting that 64% of respondents said they saw health IT as an overvalued sector. That being said, 51% of respondents said that they expect to see valuations to remain the same next year, and 40% think valuations will actually go up next year. That should be particularly the case for tools helping consumers get the best care, researchers found.

The researchers predict that health IT companies will sell at a whopping 12.5 times EBITDA plus or minus a 1.5 margin of error. Other big winners for next year include retail-centered medical groups, which are predicted to sell at 11.5 times EBITDA plus or minus 0.7 and care management, tools are projected to sell at 10.8 plus or minus 1.8.

What’s behind this enthusiasm? According to Carole Streicher, KMPG Deal Advisory leader for healthcare and life sciences, providers seem to feel they have something to prove. “There is a bit of defensive postures motivating investments as healthcare organizations contend with competition and reimbursement models tied to quality and efficiency,” she said in a prepared statement.

In choosing specific deals, buyers are looking for firms that can create savings and economies of scale, plus improve cash flow or accretive earnings per share, Streicher said.

I will be most interested to see how these predictions play out, as they don’t square precisely with what I’m seeing in my day-to-day work. For example, if care management deals are popping up everywhere it’s news to me. In fact, many of the vendors I know of in the sector are having trouble finding customers much less investors.

I’d also like to get more data on which subsectors of health IT are hot enough to generate those kinds of multiples when selling out to investors. I strongly suspect that the big deals in health IT won’t be the acquisition of vendors in hot but still immature sectors like blockchain and health AI, but rather in less immediately-sexy categories like health data analytics.

Of course, though, what makes predictions fun is that you can be wrong in surprising ways. Let’s see whether IT investment provides some of the surprises in the coming year.

 

Population Health Management Technology Evolving To Embrace More Risks

Posted on December 17, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

In prior years, one of the driving assumptions behind population health management technology was that it was important to focus on high-risk patients. The idea has been that fending off costly emergencies among these patients was the best way to control costs.

But if one market research report is on target, the practice of PHM may be evolving. According to a new study by analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, as a part of delivering value-based care, providers are deploying PHM applications addressing a far-broader range of constituencies, including not only evidence-based approaches to managing high-risk and at-risk populations, but also non-patient groups such as consumers, employees and physicians.

As PHM solutions grow more sophisticated, demand for such technologies is apparently increasing. Frost found that the US PHM market, which is valued at $3.1 billion this year, should hit $7.74 billion by 2022, a 149.6% jump in revenues. My assumption is that this will include a flood of new products that will offer new takes on PHM technology.

According to industry analyst Koustav Chatterjee, PHM vendors are using machine learning to do predictive disease modeling and deploying automated risk stratification to identify subgroups that can benefit from precisely-designed interventions. I imagine we’re talking about both pre-set and customizable filters here.

To achieve wider adoption of PHM solution, however, vendors will need to address data privacy concerns, Chatterjee said. That’s likely to stay a challenge as health IT leaders tap into multiple data sources with different security protocols in place, but these issues can be neutralized over time.

I don’t know if I agree with the short-term conclusions of this research. While I have heard anecdotes here and there about health organizations who are broadening their PHM programs, most still seem to be dedicated to the historic PHM models. In other words, they’re still focused on high-cost patients.

Sure, over time it probably makes sense to move beyond high-cost outliers and manage entire groups more effectively, but my sense is that most providers aren’t there yet; for example, only a minority of organizations have mature big data analytics programs in place, which would presumably be a prerequisite to the kind of segmentation Frost describes. I do suspect that PHM tools will begin incorporating AI capabilities soon, which should give such programs a boost, but they’re still at an early stage of development as well.

On the other hand, I think Chatterjee’s predictions should come to pass eventually, and that population health programs need to move beyond a focus on avoiding car crashes. It will just take several years before broader PHM capabilities go mainstream.

Holiday Healthcare Humor – Fun Friday

Posted on December 14, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

It’s the holidays, so what’s better than sharing a little holiday humor that includes some healthcare. Sounds like the perfect Fun Friday entry.

Luckily, we found just what we were looking for. I think you’ll enjoy this Fun Friday cartoon as we head into the weekend:

Have a great weekend everyone! Enjoy the holiday season.

California’s Information Privacy for Connected Devices Law is a Good Start, But Doesn’t Apply to Healthcare

Posted on December 13, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Mike Nelson, Vice President of IoT Security, DigiCert.

As the nation’s most populous state, California often serves as an incubator for national legislative and regulatory policy, and it’s great to see them take a leadership position in IoT cybersecurity. The announcement of California’s ‘IoT Cybersecurity Law’ is a move in the right direction. The new law will require manufacturers of connected devices to produce them with “reasonable” security features.

However, this law specifically excludes healthcare IoT devices. It states that a covered entity, provider of healthcare, business associate, healthcare service plan, contractor, employer, or any other person subject to HIPAA or the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act shall not be subject to this title with respect to any activity regulated by those acts.

While HIPAA has made great strides to help protect the privacy of personal health information, it does very little to protect the many connected medical devices that are in use today. California lawmakers missed an opportunity to drive strong IoT security requirements that protect consumers and the data they want kept confidential.

Additionally, this law will not solve the majority of cybersecurity issues that are being found in IoT devices. For example, the law requires good password practices, which includes the elimination of hard-coded passwords.  While this is a security best practice and is important for user authentication, it doesn’t cover the many back end connections that also need to be authenticated, such as over-the-air updates. Asking for “reasonable” security features to be produced simply isn’t directional enough.  It misses an opportunity to drive requirements around essential cybersecurity practices, like encryption of sensitive data, risk assessments, authenticating all connections to a device, and digitally signing code to ensure integrity.

A general rule of cybersecurity and connectivity is that whenever something becomes connected, it will eventually get hacked. The risks inherent with connected devices are real – especially in healthcare where in many cases, people rely on these devices to sustain life.  The risks of connectivity are diverse, including intercepting and manipulating sensitive data, or embedding malware that causes a device to malfunction and cause harm to a patient. The risks not only can impact patients, they can also harm the device manufacturers as well. 

St. Jude Medical, now Abbott Laboratories, learned this the hard way. A hacking organization publicized a vulnerability in a cardiac device after purchasing a short position of their stock. Upon release of this vulnerability, the company’s s stock dropped significantly, causing financial and reputational damage to St. Jude. Considering all these risks, and the many others I haven’t mentioned, it becomes clear that simply putting in place good password protections isn’t enough. More direction is needed. While it may sound like I’m advocating for stronger regulation, I’m not. I believe industries do much better when they come together and collaboratively develop best practices that are broadly adopted. Regulators can only do so much. Real solutions require the in-depth knowledge of healthcare practices and what the market can bear – something only companies and practitioners can tackle effectively, but the private sector needs to do more.

We need to begin looking at security more broadly than just hardcoded passwords. As a healthcare industry, we need to practice robust penetration testing and work to develop risk assessments on all connected medical devices. We need to make the encryption of sensitive data, both at rest and in transit, standard practice. No medical device should accept an unauthenticated message. No code or package should be executed on a device that is absent a digital signature verifying trust. Driving requirements around these types of best practices would have a much greater effect on the security of connected devices than the new California law currently does.

Though the IoT Cybersecurity Law is primitive in its protections and lacks many details to require strong security measures that would move the needle, at least California is trying to do something – absent the development of industry standards by collaborative groups. As the first of its kind at the state level, the effort should be applauded, as California is recognizing the need for manufacturers to address cybersecurity in the manufacturing process for connected devices. Time will tell if manufacturers will take responsibility and the initiative for security themselves, before further regulation requires them to act.

5 Ways in which Big Data is Advancing Telemedicine

Posted on December 12, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Rahul Varshneya, Co-Founder and President of Arkenea and Benchpoint.

The healthcare industry is rapidly incorporating changes in technology. There is a gradual shift from the service based model of healthcare which primarily focused on curing the ailments, to a more holistic outcome-based approach which not only involves exploring different treatment modalities but actually aims at understanding the causative factors behind various ailments and eliminating them.

There has been a significant increase in health data, both structured and unstructured that is being generated. The high complexity level of this data requires it’s processing by big data analytics to come up with relevant and applicable inferences. Telemedicine is also harnessing the power of big data to improve the existing healthcare facilities.

The market size for Telemedicine is expected to increase to 41.2 billion dollars by 2021 and Big Data analytics is going to play a major role in this surge.

Here are the ways in which Big Data is contributing to the advancement of Telemedicine.

1. Patient Health Tracking and Predictive Analytics

The biggest benefit of the application of Big data in Telemedicine is the identification of potential health problems before their transformation into aggravating conditions. This has become a reality with the advent of the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) in the form of wearable fitness trackers and other wearable health monitors which collect patient data on a real-time basis.

Application of Big data analytics techniques to this data ensures that patients vitals and statistics are constantly monitored. Telemedicine facilitates regular interactions with healthcare professionals without having to visit the doctor’s office. It also ensures that the physicians are constantly updated about the patient’s health status resulting in early detection of any anomaly.

The historical data collected is used for predictive analytics of the possible future outcomes. Creating risk scores on the basis of data from various sources is important for the identification of individuals at elevated risks of developing chronic ailments at the early stage of disease progression.

2. Remote Patient Monitoring and Post Discharge Prophylaxis

Post-discharge monitoring of patients and appointments with the physicians via telemedicine saves unnecessary visits to the doctor’s clinic. This is also a boon in the case of elderly and debilitated patients who cannot make frequent trips to the hospital for regular checkups. Vital patient stats like blood pressure and heart rate are collected by the use of health devices which have advanced sensors attached to them.

The data collected is processed using analytics techniques to compute the effective dosage of medication to be administered and helps the physician decide the course of treatment to be prescribed.

The clinicians are able to make use of numerous healthcare based apps to remotely monitor the patient condition and be on the lookout for signs of disease progression. This helps keeping the patients out of the hospitals, ensures that healthcare providers’ effort are focused on caring for patients in critical condition and also keeps the cost of healthcare relatively low by avoiding unnecessary hospitalization.

3. Accurate Diagnosis and Precision Medicine

Historically, the diagnostic process relied solely on patients relaying the symptoms to the doctor and doctor noticing the clinical signs of disease. The tests ordered further confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis and a treatment plan was prescribed. Now instead of subjective symptoms reported by the patient, the doctors can base their diagnosis on the patient data collected regularly by the wearable devices. Furthermore, the benefit of telemedicine is that the doctor and the patient don’t even need to be in the same geographical location for the diagnosis to take place!

Application of Big data in Telemedicine not only results in a more accurate diagnosis, but it also is a giant leap from traditional generic medicine into the realm of precision medicine curated specifically for each individual. The data collected from patients’ wearable devices, healthcare based apps, patients’ electronic health records, and genomics data can be tapped into for developing a medication that caters to patients individually.

Precision medicine takes into account the variation in lifestyles, genetic makeup, and environmental conditions for each individual. Big data makes it possible to compute the relevant data collected from various sources and helps the healthcare professionals come up with a treatment plan specific to each individual.

4. Cloud Computing and Specialist Outreach

The sheer volume of health data generated has led to the storage of patients EHRs and EMRs on the cloud. The benefit of telemedicine is that the patient data can be remotely accessed and treatment can be prescribed irrespective of the geographical location of the patient and the healthcare provider. It is of great advantage in case of a referral to the specialist who may be at a different location than the patient.

Secure access to the cloud ensures that physical location is no longer a variable in availing the best treatment possible. It is also beneficial to the healthcare providers as it allows for better scheduling of the doctor’s time increasing the effectiveness of care. Cloud storage is a precursor to the emergence of big data and acts as its facilitator.

5. Predicting Infection Trends and Timely Interventions

Application of deep learning algorithms across healthcare related data can be instrumental for prediction of infectious diseases and studying the patterns and trends of infection spread. The importance of data-based infectious disease surveillance studies has been recognized by a number of researchers across the world. These studies are important for supplementing the existing systems and designing of newer models of disease progression.

Big data in the form of Internet search queries are also being utilized for understanding disease trends, predicting the spread of infectious diseases. Once the regions affected by the infection are identified, the benefits of telemedicine come to light. Physician interactions with the affected populations and deployment of treatment modalities to the infected patients by use of tools like teleconferencing result in timely intervention and prevent the further spread of infection.

Conclusion

Big data analytics gives the physicians access to massive volumes of information which increases the diagnostic accuracy and results in efficiency in healthcare delivery. Combining the power of Telehealth with Big data has the potential to transform the healthcare delivery system and is of immense benefit to both the patients as well as healthcare providers.

Data security and privacy concerns are the biggest threats to this advancements. Enforcement of appropriate security measures need to ensured so that the vast reservoir of healthcare data can be harnessed to its full potential.

About Rahul Varshneya
Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder and President of Arkenea and Benchpoint. Rahul has been featured as a business technology thought leader in numerous media channels such as Bloomberg TV, Forbes, HuffPost, Inc, among others.

Now That We Found [Patients], What Are We Going To Do? – #HITsm Chat Topic

Posted on December 11, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’re excited to share the topic and questions for this week’s #HITsm chat happening Friday, 12/14 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Claire Pfarr (@clairepfarr) from @OneViewHC and the @Savvy_Coop Community on the topic of “Now That We Found [Patients], What Are We Going To Do?“.

HITsm 90s Rewind… (Note the 90s music links)

For years, the health industry has been talking about being more patient-centered, but weren’t doing it effectively. A lot of companies wouldn’t touch working with patients, while others said they’d do anything to help patients, but didn’t walk the talk. Meanwhile for patients, the idea that the system cared about their needs seemed like a fantasy.

We are at a crossroad, where some companies will continue down a familiar path, where others will choose to walk hand and hand with patients and forge a new trail.

Companies who put more money and effort into uncovering true patient priorities will have a bigger impact by solving the problems patients actually have. These can be big problems–like finding cures–to smaller quality of life measures that have a big impact. For example, one thing Oneview learned was that environmental factors like room lighting and temperature, made patients more uncomfortable in their hospital rooms, and were problems they could help solve. It might not be sexy, but it makes a difference for patients. Healthcare doesn’t always have to be a jagged little pill.

The best way to identify these patient priorities is to work directly with patients. More companies and innovators are getting on board with the need to work with patients, but don’t necessarily know where to find them and how to work with them. Some might ask a patient or two, but you get what you give, and that may not be sufficient to understand the full patient experience. The more patient voices you can learn from, the better.

That’s why Oneview and Savvy Cooperative have teamed up to offer the first Savvy Co-op Membership Drive. Savvy is a patient-owned co-op that helps companies get the patient insights they need to build better products and services. It is collectively owned by its patient members, and during the co-op drive we are getting the word out to give more patients a voice! And if that wasn’t exciting enough, between now and Dec 31st, members have the chance to win weekly raffle prizes and could even win a trip to Orlando, FL for #HIMSS19! Make sure to join and refer members to win!

You can listen to Savvy’s #HITsm Rewind Playlist on Spotify to get inspired

Join us for this week’s #HITsm chat where we talk about working with patients.

Topics for this week’s #HITsm Chat:
T1: Think of the last time you went to a doctor’s office/hospital. What would have made that process better? (it may not be tech!) #HITsm

T2: What are ways your company or your work can support patients? #HITsm

T3: How do you think the patient voice is important in the work you personally do day-to-day? #HITsm

T4: How do you think large consumer brands will force healthcare to be more in touch with patients’ needs? #HITsm

T5: Oneview and Savvy Cooperative are sending more patients to #HIMSS19. Where do you think HIMSS could use a dose of patient perspective? #HITsm

BONUS: Turn a 90s song into a healthcare anthem #HITsm

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
12/21 – Holiday Break

12/28 – Holiday Break

1/4 – 2019 New Years Predictions
Hosted by John Lynn (@techguy)

We look forward to learning from the #HITsm community! As always, let us know if you’d like to host a future #HITsm chat or if you know someone you think we should invite to host.

If you’re searching for the latest #HITsm chat, you can always find the latest #HITsm chat and schedule of chats here.

Which Are the Top Healthcare IT Cities?

Posted on December 10, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Whenever you talk about cities, people start getting really defensive. I guess that’s a good thing since many people are really proud of their cities. However, I saw this tweet and image from Rasu Shrestha about Nashville and I started thinking, “Which cities are the top healthcare IT cities?”

No doubt this chart makes a pretty impressive case for Nashville as one of the top healthcare IT cities. Although, this chart is really focused on Nashville as a healthcare city vs Nashville as a healthcare IT city? Is there a correlation?

I think there is to some extent. It’s really hard to have a healthcare IT city without a lot of great healthcare organizations. The two generally go together. Colin saw this first hand when he attended the Health:Further conference in Nashville. He certainly saw a lot of great healthcare IT companies at the event.

At HIMSS each year the good people of Atlanta, Georgia like to make the case that Atlanta is the healthcare IT capital of the world. This includes a big Georgia booth that includes a wide spectrum of Healthcare IT companies. I’m not sure how many people think of Atlanta when it comes to healthcare IT, but when you visit the Georgia booth at HIMSS, you realize that they may be right in saying they deserve the spot as the top healthcare IT city.

Another obvious choice for top healthcare IT cities is Boston. It helps to have Harvard and MIT in your area to prop up your city as a major healthcare IT city. Some really impressive healthcare organizations help as well. The only knock on Boston is that it does so much in the biotech world that it often can overwhelm the healthcare IT companies that are in the area. Regardless of that competition, Boston has some of the most innovative healthcare IT companies out there.

Many people like to mention San Diego as a great healthcare IT city. It gets a similar knock to Boston in that it’s often more life sciences vs healthcare IT.

Silicon Valley (San Francisco, etc) has to make the list just for the sheer number of startups they have working on healthcare IT. The challenge in Silicon Valley is that there’s not a great concentration of healthcare IT companies in any one place. In some ways that’s a good thing since those companies can pull from the mentality of other industries. In other ways, it misses out on the momentum and sharing of things that are unique to healthcare.

Chicago and New York City also have to be included on this list due to their sheer size. It’s amazing how many healthcare IT startup companies call these cities home. However, similar to silicon valley, the size of these cities also makes building the community a little harder. However, Matter in Chicago and Startup Health in NYC have done some good work in that regard.

I could keep going. It seems like there are healthcare IT startups happening in every city. Plus, there’s always the irony that some of the biggest healthcare IT companies are in cities like Verona, Wisconsin and Kansas City. Not the 2 cities you probably would have thought of first when you thought of top healthcare IT cities.

Which cities would you add to this list of top healthcare IT cities? Are there other elements I’m missing from the cities listed above? Let us know in the comments and on social media with @HealthcareScene. We’d love to hear what cities you think deserve to be on the list of top heathcare IT cities.

The Other Leadership Titles – Fun Friday

Posted on December 7, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today’s Fun Friday seems really appropriate after this week’s #HITsm chat on leadership. Thanks to David Chou for sharing this. I think all of these titles could give us all a second to pause and look at our leadership style. Sometimes titles like “VP of Stay the Course” could be a great title. However, others like VP of No aren’t so good. There’s a balance in leadership that’s highlighted in this cartoon.

Have a great weekend!

The Difficult Healthcare Problems Lie at the Crossroads

Posted on December 6, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Sometimes you stumble upon a quote which captures healthcare so perfectly. That’s what I felt when I heard this quote from Jonathan Sheldon at Oracle.

The real difficult problems sit at the crossroads of multiple domains – requires you to integrate data from separate domains.

-Jonathan Sheldon, Oracle

While many like to talk about the healthcare market, I’ve always felt that was a false framework. There’s no one healthcare market. At least not in the US. The world of healthcare is made up of hundreds of markets that have some overlaps and need to work together, but each market is very different. The simplest market to see is the ambulatory vs acute care vs post-acute care market. Each of these markets is so drastically different, that it’s really not useful to think of them as the same market. The same is true of specialties and even many regions.

The challenge of healthcare is that it spans all of these domains. And if you want to keep someone healthy and provide them an amazing patient experience, then you have to be able to span all of these different markets.

I guess that’s why the Jonathan Sheldon quote resonated with me so much. Healthcare faces a lot of difficult challenges, but one of the most difficult challenges is managing a patient’s care across all of these domains. All of us that have worked in healthcare have seen this first hand. It’s completely different cultures and often very different objectives.

While crossing these domains is one of the most challenging problems in healthcare, it is also some of the most rewarding.


Battling the Barriers in EP/Cath Labs

Posted on December 5, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Tom Downes, CEO of Quail Digital.

Clear and unambiguous communication between team members is an essential component of any surgical environment. It’s particularly important – and indeed particularly challenging – in cath labs and electrophysiology (EP) labs where physicians and clinical staff in interventional cardiovascular and other minimally-invasive therapeutics are typically spread across multiple rooms and physically separated by lead-lined doors.

But as patient demand continues to rapidly grow, the inherent complexities of the surgical environment are presenting significant communication challenges between the surgeons, clinicians and nurses. These restrictions are creating great stressors for the whole operating team as they strive to continue to deliver a proficient patient service.

Creating Clear Communication

Stress amongst hospital staff is not just a recognised problem, it’s an escalating one. A study evaluating burnout among surgeons has found that 80% of surgeons agree burnout and stress are issues they should be monitored for. In light of this, it’s clear that maintaining the well-being of healthcare professionals is a challenge, and one that needs to be addressed quickly.

Previous studies have revealed that a number of potential stressors can compromise performance in the OR, including team interaction and extreme noise. It is therefore clear that problems with communication is one of the main barriers that needs to be broken down in order to achieve a tranquil, organized environment that will alleviate pressure in the operating room. The chatter of workmates, the hum of the air conditioning and the relentless drone of essential technology, combines to create a high-stress clinical environment where the multidisciplinary teams’ need for serenity is commonly confounded by practical necessities they cannot change.

Implementing clear and immediate communication will be a positive step towards reducing the complexities of the clinical space. Failure to do this risks squandering the undoubted benefits of surgical innovation; the patient implications of an avoidable clinical error due to miscommunication could, in the worst extremes, be catastrophic. Fortunately, communication technology has evolved to present a simple, affordable solution.

Adopting a Wireless Approach

Traditionally, facilities have adopted primitive measures to deliver communication between the OR and the monitoring suite, including basic hand gestures and microphones in each room. But this approach comes with challenges, for example, the likelihood of mishearing and misreading a fellow surgeon, or instruction, is naturally increased which could then delay the procedure and cause frustration. Another thing to consider is that all the medical team will be equipped with masks, making it difficult to hear and see dated visual and auditory clues.

By adopting wireless headset technology, physicians can transform the OR, EP and cath lab experience, as well as the working environment for the whole team involved in the procedure. The technology, which operates on high quality digital frequencies and is encrypted to avoid interference from other devices or emissions in the OR, enables multidisciplinary teams to collaborate and communicate – hands-free – in the interventional OR or hybrid suite, at monitoring stations, through adjacent control rooms and ancillary areas. A lack of clarity can create stress and blame amongst the operating team, but with the ability to hear instructions clearly in every clinical environment this ambiguity can be avoided. Additionally, the pressures placed upon surgeons will be drastically reduced as they have the confidence of knowing that every member of staff is able to perform their role in a more assured manner.

And as it has been suggested that high-quality teamwork among operating room professionals is key to efficient and safe practice, implementing a system that initiates better communication between staff will be extremely beneficial to the clinical environment. Creating a more attentive, focused team will also be vital to reducing significant stress-levels and enabling greater levels of workflow. Associate Professor and Director of the Robotic and Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery program at the University of Chicago Medicine, Dr Husam H Balkhy, has first hand experience of using wireless headsets in a surgical setting, he comments, “My ability to communicate quickly and effectively with other members of the robotic team including the table-side first assistant, the anaesthesiologist, the perfusionist and nursing staff, has led to increased efficacy and patient safety in these complex procedure.”

Balkhy isn’t the only one to have benefitted from these tools, Dr Ziv Tsafrir, a Fellow in Minimally Invasive Gynecology at Henry Ford, adds: “Using wireless headsets during robotic procedures certainly contributed to better patient outcomes by creating a calmer environment for clinicians and staff.”

The Next Steps

As patient demand grows, and the global use of EP and robotics surgery increases, wireless headset technology will be an essential companion to ensure optimal, efficacious and cost-effective communications. Combine this communication tool with the below practices and clinicians will be able to further enhance the surgical environment to not only create more effective workflows and treatment, but to increase positive patient outcomes.

  • Ensuring the surgical team have a focused team discussion prior to surgery to assign roles, establish expectations and anticipate outcomes, will enable each member of the team to be prepared for any scenario that may play out. This will be beneficial to the patient’s experience and will reduce the level of stress to a minimum.
  • Whilst a briefing before the operation is an extremely important part of the medical process, a debriefing post-op is just as vital. This discussion gives the whole team the opportunity to explore the problems that occurred during the procedure and how these can be overcome before the next operation.
  • Good communication is also vital outside the cath / EP lab and amongst the rest of the hospital staff. Lack of clarity about responsibility for care and decision-making is a major contributor to medical errors and could have an extremely negative impact on the operating room.
  • In a medical setting, the person who is supposed to act on information isn’t always clearly identified. Therefore, team members should communicate clearly, both at the beginning and throughout the operation, who this person is.

By working together and communicating clearly to one another before, during and after the procedure,  the stress levels of the entire surgical team and the patient can be significantly reduced.

About Tom Downes
Tom Downes founded Quail Digital in 1995 to design headset systems for ‘team’ communication. The philosophy being that the easier and more freely a team can speak with each other in the workplace, the better their outcomes, wellbeing and productivity. Quail Digital designs and manufactures systems for the healthcare, retail and hospitality sectors, and has offices in Dallas, TX and London UK. Quail Digital is the leading provider of communications systems in the OR, and a sponsor of Healthcare Scene.