The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Carla Serra, Marketing and Account Assistant, at HumanITcare, a Spanish-based telemedicine company. Serra discussed how the company collects and uses data to improve healthcare.
Christophe Carugati: Your company is focused on measuring health. Why is this important, and how do you achieve this
Carla Serra: Our main goal is to be able to improve the patient-doctor relationship and the results obtained. It is not difficult to imagine that the possibility of daily data on certain variables facilitates the work of the doctor and helps to make the diagnosis of the patient more accurate, specialized, and concrete. When Núria Pastor, CEO of HumanITcare, started working at the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona confirmed what she had been thinking for some time. The situation of a hospitalized patient who is given full attention but who, when discharged, goes home and is not known about his progress until the next visit scheduled for 15 days or a month in many cases. There is a lot of information lost during those days, details that the patient sometimes does not remember to explain to his doctor and that are rarely accompanied by numerical information to justify the explanations.
She also realized that when clinical trials are conducted, the exact same thing happens. Visits are separated, and very relevant information for the study is lost. The conclusions we can draw are much more accurate if we monitor daily results, and this has helped to make the results of some studies more reliable.
After detecting this problem, HumanITcare was created. Our company has created its own platform with which both patients and doctors work and serves to monitor and save all this information that was lost continuously, safely, and effectively.
Christophe Carugati: How does your platform help to improve patient health and medical efficiency?
Carla Serra: HumanITcare platform is implemented in different scenarios, from private and public hospitals to home care for elderly or palliative people, or even in clinical research. Considering a pilot study for the remote care of patients with Heart Failure in the Hospital of Torrevieja, in only two months of remote monitoring using our platform, incredibly positive results began to be seen. For example, among the 32 patients, the number of emergencies was reduced by 33%, the number of readmissions was reduced by 20%, and, in the case of hospital admissions, the average length of stay was reduced by one day (from 5.78 to 4.75 days).
In the platform, alarms are implemented in order to notify the doctors when any data recollected is not in between the limits previously established. A total of 30 alarms were detected, the most frequent being weight gain (36.67%), tachycardia (20%), and hypertension (16.67%). The actions taken by the healthcare professionals, in real-time, were those of medication adjustment (increase in diuretic, modifications in hypotensive treatment, and beta-blocker treatment) and education in the use of oxygen therapy.
To sum up, this is an example of how technology can really make an impact on daily patients’ life. The satisfaction of both, patients and doctor were extremely good an 100% of professionals say it improves the clinical service and they would use the platform again.
Carugati: What hurdles are you facing when collecting and processing health data, and how do you overcome them?
Serra: What we have noticed the most is that sometimes people do not have a lot of technological skills. Elderly people in concrete are the ones that could take probably the most advantage of our platform and, at the same time, are the ones that are less used to use technology. Even though it is not translated into an incompatibility for them, the ones that are more familiarized with devices get a personalized explanation of how to use both devices and platform properly and a further follow-up in order to make sure that they know how to use them properly. Also, in many cases elderly have at home someone that take care of them (family member, nurses, interns…), and that makes even easier the process of the use adaptation.
The other issue of most concern to experts and patients is data protection. Naturally, they ask us for good protection so that they can feel comfortable and safe. We are fortunate to be able to say that we have worked hard to make our platform secure, to ensure anonymity, and to ensure that data and results are encrypted, and only authorized persons can access them. We comply with all data protection and GDPR laws. This is one of the things that we have paid the most attention to, and that has helped many centers to trust us over other options that they were considering.
Carugati: How do you ensure patients and providers can share data across borders, devices, and services?
Serra: Patients (through our app) and doctors (through our web platform) can measure variables, track data, analyze trends in the measurements collected, and be able to do a more complete and reliable study collecting much more information than with the few scheduled visits a patient may have in conventional medicine.
With the use of the HumanITcare platform, only the data necessary to be able to follow up is collected. All you need is a username and a password to access our profile from any device.
In addition, to protect the anonymity of our patients, they are identified through a random 8- characters ID, which is only known by the patient himself and their doctors. Thanks to that, the identity of the patients could not be known by anyone else if data leakage happens.
Carugati: How will better measurements of health improve healthcare in the future?
Serra: Telemedicine has been on the back burner for years in the global health system that is established. Even so, it is one of the fastest-developing sectors and one of the ones that arouse the greatest interest among investors when they think about the medicine of the future. The pandemic has brought about changes in everyone’s lives, in the way we study, in the way we work… but above all in the way we do medicine. Traditional medicine has had to adapt to the new situation in a very short time, doing only the most indispensable in person and everything else remotely, mainly via phone calls.
There are more and more advances in telemedicine, and the resources allow us to continue researching how to improve the platforms and services that telemedicine companies offer. It is important to have devices that measure more and more accurately the variables that doctors need to do a patient’s study. It is also important to make it easier for patients to play their role in monitoring their data.
If the world manages to implement a competent remote medicine system, we will all benefit. The patient will not waste time traveling to the hospital, thus avoiding exposure to any type of contagion. In addition, it makes it easier for the doctor to schedule visits.
With the use of platforms such as HumanITcare, both patients and doctors can get real-time data, receive alerts when needed, respond to questionnaires and thus collect a lot of information, which is currently being lost.