Using Tech to Conquer Inner Space
By Rocco Orlando III, MD
Chief Medical Officer
We’ve been told that the future of healthcare is something new and shiny. And there is no denying the role that slick devices like the Amazon Echo and the Apple Watch will have in the near future – helping patients monitor chronic conditions and feeding data back to their doctors. But today, the future also is emerging quietly, in places like Hartford HealthCare’s Care Logistics Center in Newington.
With its wall-mounted digital screens and rows of computer stations, it might look like a trading floor or a NASA control center. Actually, the NASA reference is not too far off the mark. But while the space program is focused on outer space, our center looks to maximize inner space – the care spaces available to patients in Hartford HealthCare.
Healthcare systems are big, complicated organizations. Hartford HealthCare has more than 20,000 employees at about 270 sites across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. We have an emergency department in each of our six hospitals as well as two free-standing emergency centers and 17 urgent care sites. Every day, an average of 1,214 patients involved in accidents or experiencing an acute illness episode, such as a heart attack, need to get care fast at one of our locations.
The Care Logistics Center, working with ambulance teams, emergency department staffs and our LIFE STAR air ambulance service, finds the most suitable care site for each patient, working to ensure that we can serve as many as possible on a daily basis. It means getting every patient to the right level of care fast – whether it’s an operating room or an intensive care unit (ICU) or another setting.
Hartford HealthCare, like any large system, has multiple sites of care in many buildings across a wide geographical service area. Our logistics center, created in collaboration with GE Healthcare and Epic, our electronic health record partner, uses advanced analytics to provide a real-time, systemwide view of what’s available for a given patient at any given moment – beds, staff, appropriate specialties, etc. Since opening in 2017, it has managed 11,225 transfers into our system and, more important, it has allowed our system to care for more patients. The rate of so-called “denials,” when a hospital or system must send patients elsewhere, has declined 58 percent since our center opened. By having a bird’s-eye view of our capacity, we’ve become much more efficient at using staff and space in all of our hospitals.
Inner space may not be the final frontier, but it’s a real challenge as health systems work to become more effective. And it’s not just about fitting supply to demand. This kind of overview makes it easier to coordinate care for patients who often need a range of care. Secure patient records travel electronically with patients and families are always in the loop and part of the care team. It’s not as flashy as “Hey, Siri . . . ,” but it’s using technology to create a better, faster and more efficient future for healthcare consumers.