Cloud-Based Healthcare Device Will Improve Patient Outcomes and Reduce Costs, Says Isansys Lifecare CEOMay 9, 2012 – 7:38 am
Isansys Lifecare CEO Keith Errey may have his head in the cloud, but his feet are planted firmly on solid business ground. Isansys has developed the LifeTouch Patient Surveillance System, which is touted as the first cloud-ready product to be certified as a Class IIa medical device under the terms of the Medical Devices Directive. The CE-marked system can now be used clinically within the European Union along with other countries that recognise the CE mark. Given that the system promises to improve patient safety and clinical outcomes while reducing healthcare costs, the potential uptake is enormous.
Comprising a body-worn wireless sensor and associated Patient Gateway, the LifeTouch system is defined by Errey as a “vitals-as-a-service” clinical solution. “In the general ward of a hospital, patients are monitored, at best, every couple of hours,” says Errey. If something happens and they need attention, “that requires an emergency response, which is a high-cost intervention,” he explains. By contrast, the LifeTouch system provides continuous real-time monitoring of a patient’s key vitals in the hospital, at another care facility or in the patient’s home.
“The system collects data continuously,” stresses Errey. “This is the key to being able to accurately determine the future trajectory of a patient’s status, what clinicians call early warning scores. It’s all about intervening when a patient starts to deteriorate—if we can extend that view [into the patient's condition] and intervene earlier, the situation can be dealt with by a much simpler, less traumatic and lower cost intervention such as providing a little more fluid, in some cases, or adjusting drug dosage.” The cost savings can be huge, he says.
Despite its promise, wireless telemetry in healthcare has not achieved anything approaching its potential, and Errey has been wondering why for some time. The reason, he concludes, is its complexity. “It’s too complicated for many clinical people to use,” he explains. “It’s not that they are technically inept—they just don’t have the time. That’s why making the technology available as a service makes so much sense. We can screen our clinical users from things like technological obsolescence,” says Errey.
“Hospitals investing in wireless monitoring systems look at purchasing cycles of five, and often 10 years,” notes Errey. That is unrealistic given the pace of technological change, and Isansys Lifecare’s business model enables upgrades within a timeframe that is more like what we are used to in consumer electronics. What’s more, the “vitals-as-a-service” model, which underpins the LifeTouch system, makes the technology relevant to hospitals in Barcelona or Bangalore, according to Errey. In fact, India is a target market. The affordability of the technology allows healthcare providers to leapfrog expensive conventional monitoring systems and meet the demands of India’s growing middle class, which is woefully underserved in healthcare. On the other end of the economic spectrum, the US healthcare system also has something to gain from LifeTouch, says Errey.
“There is a lot of interest in the United States, especially regarding the system’s ability to resolve patient-safety issues and, in light of changes to US reimbursement policies, provide a high level of patient surveillance once patients have been discharged from the hospital. This is critically important during the first month after discharge,” says Errey. He estimates that hospital-acquired infections, medical errors, avoidable patient deteriorations and resulting litigation end up costing the US healthcare system in the neighbourhood of US$50 billion per year. The LifeTouch system can make a real dent in minimising these events by offering a means of continuously monitoring patients who have been released from the hospital, analysing the data in real time, merging it with a patient’s electronic health record and securely delivering it to authorised personnel anytime and anywhere.
Data protection is not an issue with this technology, Errey adds, because of the system’s scalable architecture. “We are not seeking to own the data. Some prospective customers have told us that the patient data belongs to them, and that’s fine,” says Errey. “We can establish the service in the hospital and make the cloud a little smaller. Or we can make the cloud larger and incorporate several hospitals.” The possibilities are practically endless.
LifeTouch may well be the first CE-marked medical device living in the cloud, but if the system lives up to its promise, it is going to have a lot of company up there real soon.Norbert Sparrow