Mercy Takes Virtual Care from Future Vision to Present Reality
In today’s über-connected world, people are increasingly incentivized to take accountability for their health. With wearable devices tracking everything from sleep cycles to heart rates to steps taken, friends and family members hold each other accountable to healthy goals. For example, “My Fitness Pal” notifies me each time my friend walks her dog, and the app prompts me to congratulate her. And my sister can view the number of steps her diabetic husband takes each day via their connected Fitbit apps. She can intervene when he isn’t being as active as he should.
Similarly, through connected technology, patients are not only held accountable by their peers, but also by their physicians. Email correspondence through patient portals avoids unnecessary visits to the office as does consultations conducted over webcam. New devices relay blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs back to their doctors so they can manage chronic conditions—like diabetes—at home.
New remote-access technology is incredibly helpful for patients who live far from a hospital or for patients who may have to take three to four public transportation connections just to reach their doctor’s door.
Patient care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year
Last week, during the SAP HANA in Healthcare Showcase Mercy event in St. Louis, Missouri, I toured the first and only completely virtual care center in the world. The Mercy Virtual Care Center opened in October 2015. The building is situated amid beautiful wildlife; it embodies the values of the hospital founders, the Sisters of Mercy; and it exudes innovation in a patient-first atmosphere.
The minute I entered the building, I thought how much someone like my mother could benefit from this type of facility. She does not drive, and last year, when she underwent two hip replacement surgeries about 6 months apart from each other, she relied on my father, her neighbors, and me to drive her to her follow-up appointments about two hours away from her home.
Through 160 virtual care pods, Mercy co-workers care for over 10k patients a day. Each caregiver can observe six monitor screens at once, checking in with patients to ensure that they are taking medication properly, monitoring vitals, and tracking patients via biometrics and wearables. For ICU patients, Mercy staff serve as a second set of eyes, monitoring patients’ vital signs and alerting bedside staff when patients need attention.
Mercy is so dedicated to its virtual care model and the outcomes of its patients that the organization is absorbing the costs for the patient care kits it provides to home-based patients. The kits include remote technology like iPads and biometric sensors necessary to virtually connect the patient with physicians and nurses.
Through different alert settings, nurses at the Virtual Care Center are notified when patients enter a high-risk zone, in which one or multiple body parts deteriorate and start to fail. The biometric sensors can even alert nurses if the patient is vertical or horizontal, signifying if a patient has fallen, or in my mom’s case, if she is getting up to exercise hourly to avoid the formation of scar tissue post-surgery.
Mercy Expands Innovation
During the showcase event, Mercy elaborated on its perioperative services and pharmacy inventory optimization. Mercy is slowly shifting to expand its SAP HANA functionality from a side car application to leverage full end to end capabilities. In the case of knee replacement surgery, Mercy shortened dashboard viewing time from 30 minutes to just three seconds with SAP HANA.
And circling back to the theme of accountability and incentivization, with the analytic capabilities of SAP HANA, Mercy is quickly and easily creating and comparing physician score cards. The organization can drill into data showing the amount of prescription medications dispensed by each physician and comparisons on the price of hospital tools used for surgeries. This kind of transparency enables physicians to learn from their peers and encourages dialogue around best practices. Sometimes, physicians are simply unaware that less expensive but equivalent tools exist.
Mercy has also saved cost by standardizing communication and terminology throughout its facilities, encouraging interoperability. Even starting surgeries on time each morning has contributed to improved performance; the average turnover time between surgeries is significantly faster when the day promptly begins.
Since implementing SAP HANA, Mercy has saved over $9.42 million by reducing waste in high cost/high preference surgeon specific supplies, high cost/low preference surgeon supplies, and sterile processing supplies.
By analyzing inventory, tracking-interventions, labor management, and expense management, Mercy can report on drug utilization for inpatient, outpatient, oncology, and retail. For more on this, read my blog from #HIMSS17.
Each year I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Mercy employees, either at HIMSS, SAPPHIRE NOW, or various SAP HANA Showcase events. The staff at Mercy is dedicated to accessible quality care, with values, beliefs, and a genuine will to improve the lives of their patients. I look forward to the advances they will continue to make for years to come, and hopefully, the hospitals near my mother’s home in New Jersey will follow in the footsteps of Mercy. Virtual care and technology evangelism is saving lives and money, and Mercy has the numbers to prove it.
For more on Mercy, look at their feature story on SAP.com.
For more of my work, follow me @CMDonato and on LinkedIn.