Holistic decision-making in a digitized health-care environment

Smart data integration can help to increase the quality of data-based decision-making, especially in scenarios where clinical decision-makers face multiple barriers and challenges along the patient pathway. And this is critically important in today’s digitized health-care environment where the quality of decision-making depends on the quality and availability of the underlying data.

In medicine, decision-making has a clear goal: to benefit the patient. Health-care decisions are shaped by professional standards, expert knowledge, wishes of the patient, and therapeutic possibilities.

Achieving this goal increasingly depends on the smart use of medical data. The continuously growing, multi-dimensional range of health data from electronic medical records, image databases, and other multi-layered, often fragmented IT systems is becoming more and more important for making up-to-date, patient-oriented decisions and designing care processes accordingly.

Of course, not all medical decisions are necessarily difficult. In some uncomplicated health-care situations, professional medical knowledge is sufficient to find an expedient solution, so decisions are straightforward. Decision-making becomes more complex as the number of diagnoses and treatment options increase, along with the amount of relevant patient data and the risk of complications.

The challenge in a complex case is to integrate a wide range of data from a variety of sources, such as clinical, radiological, or laboratory information; genetic and pathological findings; and insights into behavioral and social conditions in such a way that the decision meets highest possible quality standards and takes into consideration the personal situation and preferences of the patient.

Medical decisions occur along the continuum of care, from initial clinical contact to follow-up. The questions health-care providers need to address are:

  • What needs to be done diagnostically and therapeutically?
  • How can I use my resources in the process efficiently?
  • With whom should I share information and coordinate to achieve the best possible outcome for the patient?

Digital technologies can improve decision-making in all these dimensions and provide valuable decision support along the patient pathway.

Complex decisions may fail for various reasons. Patient data might not be accessible, or too extensive and unstructured. Information might be overlooked. Guidelines might not be sufficiently executed. These challenges can create inefficient and costly workflows and compromise clinical outcomes.

However, they can be solved with a scalable and flexible digital platform that can gather patient data from sources in various IT systems and institutions and can provide caretakers easy access to patient data across all touchpoints of the patient journey. This smart-data integration can ultimately provide a more comprehensive picture of the patient and support holistic decision-making in medicine.

Today’s IT architectures must be able to constantly evolve and grow as needs change.

Siemens Healthineers has designed its digital health platform as a flexible tool that uses the increasingly important data for health care. Its integrated marketplace provides one-stop access to a growing number of proprietary applications as well as curated and pre-vetted partner applications, enabling advanced and customized digitization for a wide range of health-care providers and care situations.

Digitization is certainly not only a matter of technology but also conception. Health care increasingly uses an abundance of complex health data, and three changes will facilitate the digital shift:

  1. Health-care providers need a digital infrastructure that is as simple as possible, as well as versatile and adaptable: ideally a system-wide platform for networking data.
  2. Providers need a growing number of intelligent applications that can meaningfully apply networked data to specific operational and clinical questions.
  3. As digitization changes the nature of medical decision-making, such decisions will continue to be the responsibility of doctors—and patients. Nevertheless, health-care providers will increasingly have to make use of advanced digital decision support to bring the wealth of data into their deliberations and use it in a profitable way.

Learn more about how Siemens Healthineers supports smart data integration and decision support along the patient pathway.

This content was produced by Siemens Healthineers. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

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