In order to keep healthcare affordable, of good quality and pleasant for employees, we need to organise that care differently. That requires innovation, and that innovation needs data. In doing so, hospitals run into obstacles. Because a lot of data is ‘locked’ in the EPD, and many processes run through those kinds of closed applications. In this article, we’ll look at the possibilities of building more flexible processes with Power Platform, even outside of your EHR.
As a hospital, you are at a crossroads. You have an EPD and you can choose to continue to implement your processes in it, with a lot of customisations and the maintenance and use problems that come with it. You can also limit yourself to the standard functionality of your EHR and accept that you will never be able to modernise and automate a lot of things there.
Do you choose that last path? Then, outside of your EHR, you need other ways to set up your processes flexibly and efficiently. And those ways are there, too. Within the Microsoft ecosystem, we naturally think of the Power Platform. That includes not only Power Automate, Power Apps, and PowerBI, but also powerful capabilities to work with AI and integrate with apps that aren’t built for it.
To give us Microsoft’s vision of how Power Platform can contribute to better care, we asked Sofia Kouhestani, Business Application Specialist at Microsoft, for her input.
3 ways to add value
In this piece, we list a number of examples of how automated flows make the work of a healthcare professional better. But the truth is that we also don’t know exactly what healthcare will look like in a few years’ time. What we do know, from our experience in healthcare but also in other industries, is that you need a technological basis to be ready for ‘later’. Whatever the future looks like. We know that making data available and usable causes enormous accelerations in all processes, but we cannot tell you what you can and should do with your data. You have to find out for yourself. On a platform that can grow with you and that you can adapt to your way of working.
Such a platform adds value in 3 ways:
- Facilitating care processes differently. As soon as data from all internal and external systems becomes available on a data platform, Power Platform gives you the speed and flexibility to set up care processes in such a way that they become much better. The EPD is not currently set up for this.
- Access to data. Data only delivers maximum value if you give it a role in the process. Show relevant blood values from previous research when new research comes in. Summarise a patient’s medical history when an alarm call comes in. Transcribing a recording of a meeting for the people who couldn’t be there. These are just a few examples of how fast, relevant and contextual access to data improves the care process by leaps and bounds.
- Supporting ad-hoc processes. In many care processes, the choice we started this article with applies: either in the EHR, or outside it. But there are countless processes in a hospital that are not supported at all. Informal, ad-hoc processes. Such as consultation among colleagues or asking for help if your hands are short. Asking each other to take a look, to avoid mistakes. Essential, but unstructured processes that you can run better with good automation.
Because of this added value, Power Platform can play an important role in making data understandable, available and usable and organising care differently. With Power Platform, you make work more effective, less labor-intensive, and faster. And that’s important, because you don’t have enough people and that won’t get any better in the near future.
“Hospital employees continuously have a huge backlog of work: administration, reporting, transfer. A lot of that they do in Excel and that’s labor-intensive,” says Sofia Kouhestani. “Building processes with Power Automate is relatively cheap and can quickly reduce the workload.”
Yet she sees, just like us, that not all hospitals want to start with automation outside the EHR: “Hospitals like to automate and they are becoming more and more innovative, but they also look at each other. They want to make sure it’s going to work, so they wait until another hospital has a solution.”
To inspire you not to wait and to get to work, we show you a few possibilities.
Example: how to apply power platform in the hospital
You have a complicated planning system in your hospital to fill the services. That is a whole puzzle every time, which fortunately your people usually solve through dedication and craftsmanship. But within the ‘blocks’ of planning, your healthcare staff still does a lot of ‘ad hoc planning’. And there is a lot to be gained there.
This concerns the actions in the care process that you need a colleague ‘just as quickly’. Fast, last-minute and unplanned. In addition, things often almost go wrong or are delayed, because people are unavailable or busy. It’s impossible to plan all of this, but you can orchestrate it better by giving people the tools they need.
One example is crowdsourcing a second pair of eyes for validating high-risk medication. To comply with the protocol, you must have a colleague look at it and have it approved. But how do you do that when you’re alone and everyone is busy? You press a button on your mobile and all qualified colleagues receive a call. The first person available responds, watches via the camera and digitally approves the medication.
This way of working saves a lot of time, stress and travel within the hospital. It is an example of what we call real-time planning: organising the work on the spot, in the moment, based on data.
Mobile working and data sharing
In the future, the smartphone will be the central place where we organise care work. As a result, making data operational across the entire breadth of the process has a positive impact. Another example: responding to an alarm. If the entire team has a mobile phone and an earpiece, the signalling system can automatically put any available nurse in a call. Completely automatically, and hands-free, they can then discuss what needs to be done and who goes to the room where the alarm comes from.
And of course, the impact goes beyond the care process. We also see an increasing role for data, devices and the digital workplace in terms of facilities. As with the least favorite activity of every hospital employee (except for typing in data, then): searching for missing items.
A COW (Computer On Wheels) has been moved. There is no stretcher or wheelchair available. So you have to walk around again and search… The data from the Internet of Things (IoT) will make a huge difference. There are fluorescent fixtures and door sensors that read RFID chips from any equipment moving around the room. This way, the central system will always know where your belongings are and your phone can lead you to the nearest available copy. But all medical equipment is also connected nowadays and all the information from those devices can be used to build better processes.
Reading and writing in the EPD
There is a challenge with many of these applications. The EHR will always remain the central place for patient data. And most EHR solutions don’t give you an easy way to automatically read and write back data. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers the solution for this. This is an important development, because manually filling in all kinds of things in the EHR afterwards takes a lot of time and keeps healthcare providers away from their patients for hours every day.
Kouhestani sees that there are already many companies that take advantage of this opportunity: “The EPD is a closed environment, but increasingly we can still extract information from the EPD with RPA. Writing back is a lot more challenging, but certainly also possible. The apps of medical caterer CuliCare and WatchPAT, which makes devices for sleep research, can still integrate with the EHR. And RPA is secure, because all data is encrypted by default and Power Platform RPA itself never stores data.”
By combining the different functions of Power Platform, you combine RPA with automated flows, voice recognition, AI applications and Power Apps. This way you analyse data quickly, record audit trails and hook up an extra person at the right time for a ‘four-eyes check’, which also increases patient safety with automation.
Help from all colleagues in the world
The beauty of Microsoft’s platform thinking is that it’s always about possibilities and not limitations. Because if you can get help from everyone via your smartphone, why limit yourself to your direct colleagues? Why not work together across hospitals? A colleague from Groningen can check medication when you are working in Amsterdam. And a super specialist from abroad can look at research results.
This development is important because hospitals are becoming increasingly specialised. This makes care more efficient, but also makes certain knowledge disappear from your hospital. You can partly absorb this by bringing in knowledge from other healthcare institutions.
And the working application of such cooperation across institutions is Saxenburgh, where referring a patient to elderly care is completely automated. This saves employees a lot of phone calls, administration and computer time. And that’s what you want: healthcare workers who spend less time at a keyboard and more concerned with care. That’s what your people want too, by the way.
eBook: The Future of Healthcare starts now
Discover how a technological transformation can help your hospital overcome challenges in the coming years. This eBook explores the cloud as the innovation platform for shaping the future of healthcare, handling data and applications differently, and future-proofing your workplace. Expert insights from Microsoft, E-mergo, Weolcan, and Rapid Circle show how their products can shape the healthcare of the future in your hospital.