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Icons of Progress
 

Smarter Healthcare Management

 

IBM has been part of the electronic healthcare dialog for more than 50 years. In 1959, Dr. Frederick J. Moore, a prominent researcher in the health services field, proposed—at an IBM symposium—a vast information retrieval system that would make health data available to public and private agencies. Today, the United States is moving toward a national electronic records program, and IBM is working with healthcare providers in China, Spain, Russia, Thailand and elsewhere.

IBM System/360 speeds transplants

Using an IBM ® System/360, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center speeded up transplants of life-giving kidneys and other vital organs to patients in five western states of the United States in 1962. Information on white blood cell samples from potential donors and recipients resided in the computer, which searched its database for matches with the least likelihood of organ ejection. The System/360 also helped scientists understand how closely tissue characteristics had to be matched for hope of transplant success.

A holistic approach to healthcare management in Catalonia

In 2006, the Institut Català de la Salut (ICS), the major provider of health services in Catalonia, Spain, began with IBM a four-year modernization of health information systems at eight hospitals. With more than 35,000 professionals, ICS represents 80 percent of primary healthcare in Catalonia and 30 percent of hospital healthcare.

The project aims to simplify processes for both healthcare workers and management. This means that patients can face less red tape and fewer administrative tasks. It also makes for easier access to doctors and more precise diagnoses. An electronic history of each patient—including previous ailments and medical test results through to allergy data—can be available to medical staff in each hospital. For patients, this can mean shorter waiting times for treatment, a single medical file with consolidated, up-to-date information and enhanced confidentiality and security. And medical staff can have immediate and easy access to each patient’s medical history along with all X-rays and scanner images.

Software donation supports open source records

IBM helped accelerate the drive toward a national electronic medical records system for the US in 2006 by contributing software technology to the open source community. The software, contributed to the Eclipse Foundation’s Open Healthcare Framework project in the US, provides a mechanism to connect isolated “islands” of information that reside throughout the healthcare system to the Health Information Exchange.

Shifting healthcare focus to the patient

A study that IBM unveiled in 2009 showed a need for a new model of healthcare called the patient centered medical home. Patient Centered Medical Home: What, Why and How? sees the medical home as a basis for reform of the current healthcare system in the United States. This model represents a return to focusing on primary care, including a patient’s long-term comprehensive relationship with a virtual care team that is led by the personal physician and empowered with the technology and tools to produce better overall family health. The United States already faces the highest national expenses in the world, and they will continue to grow. According to some predictions, healthcare costs will soon outpace gross domestic product growth and will consume more than a fifth of the gross domestic product by 2018.

The study emphasized that the current system is geared toward treating and rewarding acute, episodic interventions, such as emergency room visits. The patient centered medical home, on the other hand, focuses on providing ongoing wellness. It also, as the name implies, provides patients with a “home” for medical needs, a team that is readily available and closely follows their conditions.

A close relationship with care providers is important. According to one study, people with a primary care physician are more likely to take preventive healthcare measures and participate in a wellness program. That means their healthcare expenses are liable to be lower; and they will likely live longer.

Pilot programs have resulted in better care, greater patient compliance with treatments and more effective use of healthcare services (e.g., fewer unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency rooms being used less for primary care). The Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC) program, for example, was formed to reduce healthcare costs and increase access and quality of care for the state’s under- and uninsured population. A report found that the CCNC produced cost savings of at least US$160 million a year. What’s more, its asthma program cut hospital admission rates by 40 percent, and a diabetes program improved quality of care by 15 percent.

But cost isn’t the only factor making the medical home attractive. Two demographic trends foreshadow an even greater crisis in healthcare: a looming shortage of primary care physicians and an increasing prevalence of chronic disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease, in the US.

More information on the medical home is available at the Joint Principles of the Patient Centered Medical Home website.

Thai hospitals upgrade records system

Bangkok Hospital Group, operated by Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, provides full medical services to local and international patients from 17 centers throughout Thailand, integrated and centralized its electronic medical records using IBM Power Systems™. The new system manages and interconnects the medical records to other hospitals in the network, offering patients a “one-stop” registration, along with quicker and more convenient services.

The project aims to simplify processes for both healthcare workers and management. This means that patients will face less red tape and fewer administrative tasks. It also makes for easier access to doctors and more precise diagnoses. An electronic history of each patient—including previous ailments and medical test results through to allergy data—is available to medical staff in each hospital. For patients, this means shorter waiting times for treatment, a single medical file with consolidated, up-to-date information and ensured confidentiality in a secure information system. And medical staffers have immediate and easy access to each patient's medical history along with all X-rays and scanner images.

Matching marrow donors and patients

In 2010, the National Marrow Donor Program in the US adopted IBM WebSphere ® Lombardi Business Process Management software to help automate its donor and patient management process. By incorporating advanced analytics, social networking and reporting, the software streamlines the record-matching process, automatically comparing millions of data records nationwide. The project aims to cut the time to transplant for bone marrow transplant patients from its current average of 96 days.