Purna Prasad: Proactive vs. Reactive Approaches in Clinical Technology

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.

2 thoughts on “Purna Prasad: Proactive vs. Reactive Approaches in Clinical Technology

  1. Purna,
    I could not agree with you more. I am under the thought that a new paradigm shift needs to occur to bring the clinical technology strategists in direct collaboration with clinicians. It is my vision to have “virtual care teams” bringing the healthcare technology management professionals along side clinicians to develop a team approach. Technology has reached a saturation point that is affecting the delivery of care. A strategic and collaborative approach is the way of the future and will be mandated for successful care delivery. Much of the “old guard” is still in a silo, functioning in an independant role. These roles are so interdependent now that those reactive and proactive discussions are ongoing and interdisciplinary.

    In today’s healthcare delivery system, design thinking, intuition and creativity are absolutely necessary to “react” to this new paradigm. Kudos to you for recognizing it. Build your interdisciplinary “virtual care team” to drive this comprehensive strategy.

    Debbie Gregory RN, BSN
    Senior Clinical Consultant
    SSR Technology Group

    • Hi Debbie,
      Thanks for the clinical perspective. The bonding between Clinical Technology and Nursing fosters safe, efficient and economical care. We are working on exciting virtual-care projects, and please look me up when you visit our neck of the woods. Thanks again for the great perspective.


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