Big data, intelligent pills top hospital leaders' tech watch list

It's difficult for hospital leaders to make the right decisions about technology when there is so much available and the reimbursement climate is so weak. But a new ECRI Institute report, "Top 10 Hospital C-Suite Watch List," offers guidance on the latest evidence so leaders can make informed decisions.

"This is not a list of 'must-haves,' but rather a 'must think carefully about' list," states Diane Robertson, director, health technology assessment information service, ECRI Institute, in an announcement. "We don't profess to have all the answers, but the unbiased evidence that we present about these 10 technologies and infrastructure issues will get healthcare leaders off to a steady start on their often rocky journey of acquiring new technologies or making system-wide changes in 2014 and beyond."

ECRI's list aims to help leaders decide which technologies offer the best return on investment. Included in the list:

  • Computer-assisted sedation systems: This new technology doesn't thrill the American Society of Anesthesiologists, which, as soon as the product was introduced, published a three-pronged strategy to combat it. Patient safety implications are big for this new technology, the report states. "These safety issues are why the anesthesiology community is raising objections," the report said. "But for GI centers, procedure costs could be significantly lowered by not needing an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist present for each patient and procedure."
  • Intelligent pills: The average medication adherence rate among patients with chronic diseases is only 50 percent, according to the World Health Organization. Digital medicine has the potential to track patients and improve on this number. ECRI cites a study of one system that was nearly 98 percent accurate for tracking pills ingested. ECRI suggests obtaining buy-in from clinicians and discussing adoption strategies for patients who may think the system is too "Big Brother."
  • Big data tools: ECRI points out that big data does indeed have the power to generate new information to improve care and outcomes. For example, EHR data has the "immediate potential to reduce hospital admission and readmission rates." But it does have operational inefficiencies--many systems are focused only on decreasing costs and not actually improving patient flow, which big data does have the potential to do, the report states. However, use of big data is still in its infancy across many healthcare organizations. Still, the global market for healthcare analytics is expected to grow from an estimated $4.4 billion today to $21 billion by 2020, according to MarketsandMarkets.

A recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine argues that technology is at the center of efforts to control costs and improve healthcare in the United States. That technology will provide evidence-based care, better coordination of care for the sickest--and most costly--patients and offer more transparency to help educate patients on how to get the best value for their healthcare dollar, according to the article.

Meanwhile, expensive technology is the factor most likely to drive healthcare spending in the coming years, experts concluded in a Brookings Papers on Economic Activity analysis.

To learn more:
- read the ECRI announcement (and request a copy of the full report)

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