Patients do not schedule their illness, so adopting only a proactive approach to serve patients at medical centers may not be very effective, especially when it comes to the deployment of clinical technology. Such technology translates physiological data into a format that is useful to the clinicians serving the patients. The translation of physiological data is not straightforward because individual disease conditions require different ways of utilizing clinical data. There are diseases where an electrocardiogram (EKG) alone may not provide the full picture of the patient’s condition. However, the correlation of an EKG reading with another physiological data set, such as the respiratory rate, may provide a more complete picture. It may be the correlation of the two data points or signals that points to a particular disease. In such a case, displaying the EKG signal, the respiratory trend, or both at the same time may be ineffective. A waveform that displays the correlation and the change in this correlation may provide invaluable insight for the clinician, helping him or her to diagnose and treat the patient quickly and efficiently.
When patients require such diagnostic instrumentation, clinical technology engineers have to be reactive in their approach. They need the skills to design, build, and deploy such modifications in a timely manner. One cannot plan proactively for such requirements because diseases only can be fully understood,with data presented in a useful format, after they are recognized.
I believe most hospital administrators don’t understand the very simple fact that treating patients requires an effective mix of reactive and proactive approaches. Clinical technology strategists cannot draw out a five-year roadmap for instrumentation or equipment for unknown types of disease analysis. A vital sign monitor that lacks built-in intelligent analysis tools cannot help a clinician diagnose new conditions quickly and effectively. Building intelligence requires a reactive strategy that is “baked into” the strategy roadmap. An effective clinical technology strategy must appreciate the need to sometimes accommodate unknown, disruptive technology. Such a strategy is crucial to the well-being of any healthcare facility in this era of evidence-based reimbursement. Administrators who criticize healthcare technology management professionals for a lack of proactive vision often fail to understand the valuable role that reactive approaches play in a sound and comprehensive clinical technology strategy.
Purna Prasad, PhD, CCE, is the director of the Clinical Technology & Biomedical Engineering Department at Stanford University Medical Center in Stanford, CA.