In my role at InterSystems, I often meet innovative new solution developers in the healthcare sector who have brilliant people and ideas but limit their chances of success by neglecting the data.
Setting out with a collection of open source or ad hoc databases, early-stage innovators neglect to consider how they can meet the demands to scale up once they move to implementation. They do not really plan for success or seriously examine how they will scale their applications or exchange data securely and effectively.
In the health sector there is rarely such a thing as a stand-alone solution. If you are to offer real advances in diagnosis and treatment you must integrate your own data with the masses of clinical data that already exist and learn how to share with other systems and organisations. Interoperability is an essential too often overlooked, and solutions must be engineered with healthcare standards front of mind.
Without this, many excellent solution developers struggle with the data requirements of national health systems once they move from the pilot stage. In England and Wales, for example, the NHS has been very effective in introducing mandatory data standards HL7 V2 and FHIR governing interoperability, to which any applications must adhere. Although start-up and software house owners and creators have exciting ideas and robust business plans, they often fail to fully consider the challenges of scaling and interoperability that such standards present. This is perhaps understandable when a fledgling business is struggling to get off the ground. Nonetheless, they could have avoided these difficulties had they taken a little time to consider the full ramifications from the start. Scaling would be much easier if they had started with a data platform strategy early on, preparing them for the requirement for data to be secure, available and compliant.
A unified data platform such as InterSystems’ IRIS for Health will take care of the data “coal-mining” to make a new product operational, freeing up the talent to concentrate on what they are best at and what makes the business special.
Three successful ventures bear this out, having deployed InterSystems data management technology as they became “shakers and breakers” within the health sector. Coordinate My Care is a prime example, integrating with the NHS in London, one of the most complex healthcare systems in the world, serving nine million people. Coordinate My Care puts patients in control of their own care plans as they become older, ensuring their wishes about treatment are shared securely and easily across the emergency services, acute and primary care. This avoids unnecessary or undesired hospital admissions or treatments, reducing distress for patients and their families. It also helps tackle the heavy concentration of healthcare expenditure on end-of-life pathways, not all of which is strictly necessary.
WellSky International is another of our partners that has used IRIS for Health as a foundation for its success. WellSky provides a world-class pharmacy management system, and EPMA developed by and for, pharmacists and prescribers. By addressing the major problem of adverse reactions to medication at the point of prescribing, extended hospital stays can be avoided along with the avoidable costs. The company’s solution has achieved adoption at over 125 NHS trusts or health boards, and many healthcare providers in Europe. The company now leads the way in defining interoperability standards for community and regional data-sharing, developing WellSky EPMA, which covers electronic prescribing and medicines administration across many entities.
Thirdly, InterSystems is working with Cognetivity Neurosciences, which is without doubt a “breaker solution”. It employs AI to achieve early detection of dementia in a highly innovative way, testing the performance of large areas of the brain, analysing the timing and accuracy of patients’ responses to specific images presented to them. This removes language, cultural or educational barriers, enabling the solution to achieve adoption almost anywhere in the world. It is also much faster than traditional tests, taking five minutes as opposed to over half an hour, and is not affected by the ‘learning effect’, meaning that doctors and researchers can reissue the test without the patient simply ‘learning’ the functionalities of it, thus reducing its accuracy. Studies on its effectiveness have been conducted in the UK and further studies are planned for Europe and the USA.
Cognetivity will be a major advance in detection, helping society deal with a significant healthcare and funding problem. In the UK alone, a million people will live with dementia by 2025, according to authoritative predictions. Although there is no cure for dementia, early intervention in Alzheimer’s cases can slow the disease’s progression, which is why the test’s sensitivity to early stage deterioration in particular is a crucial development – both from a patient perspective and for healthcare systems who will save money through early detection. The interoperability of the Cognetivity platform enables it to integrate into healthcare data systems and to use existing hardware in the form of iPads and smartphones. This allows a scalable solution that can greatly improve the efficiency of existing patient pathways, as well as providing vital remote and Covid-safe patient monitoring.
These are three exciting examples of businesses that approached the big questions and challenges around data early on and planned for their success. They are now well-positioned to build and expand even further, having a highly effective unified data platform that makes their data available and secure and maximises interoperability in full compliance with standards.