Less ping-ponging of patients in VSSHP thanks to digitalization

Net 1/2016,  2016-05-20

The digitization process of the Hospital District of Southwest Finland (VSSHP) was kicked off in the early 2000’s. Aside from technological development, the specialized healthcare organization is now better than before able to tend to the wide range of patient needs.

Y Koivusalo / VSSHP

According to CIO Yrjö Koivusalo, it was the electronic patient records that marked the launch of VSSHP’s digitization, on which decisions were made as early as in the early 2000’s.

”That’s when it all began, and the path has been full of twists and turns ever since. One of the milestones was fall 2011 when we officially moved over to electronic patient records and gave up maintaining printed ones,” says Koivusalo.

A similar decision was taken concerning imaging as early as in 2006 and since then the x-ray has been an entirely digital process. Radiology has been a trailblazer also in voice recognition, as in other medical fields the patient records dictated by doctors have up to this point been listened to and transcribed by secretaries. From now on this will be done by computers.

Patients moved around as little as possible

According to Koivusalo, what was an important change for patients was the founding of the central emergency service in the Turku area. It operates in the new T2 hospital which is one of Europe’s most modern hospital facilities, enabling a patient-centric healthcare model. In terms of structure and configuration the hospital has been designed in a way that patients need to be moved around as little as possible.

”Regardless of symptoms, all patients will be treated at the same place, sparing them from wondering where to go next,” Koivusalo says.

In the new hospital, the data used to monitor patient status is directly connected to information systems and transmitted electronically all the way to patient records. This is a major improvement, as previously the monitoring equipment was always human-operated.

”We have also deployed mobile data entry for nurses,” Koivusalo says.

”With the mobile application, nurses can now record their observations from beside the patient’s bed instead of using paper notes or the computer in the office. Simultaneously the system displays previous test results, for example, allowing fast response to important changes. During this year the app will be enhanced to allow the entering of medication data.”

VSSHP is also launching the so-called Tablets for Doctors pilot project. It aims at testing tablet computers in accessing patient records and also to enable doctor dictations.

Better care with big data

”To actually implement digitization, and to follow through with the necessary changes poses major challenges to a hospital environment. Traditional modes of operation sit tight,” Koivusalo says.

”For example, we have piloted self-registration, but with poor results – people are not ready to give up the old practice. At worst this will lead to having to invest in new devices and accumulating more costs, without any benefits.”

According to Koivusalo, digital home services and e-services are still expressly non-existent. However, university hospitals are running a virtual hospital project, which offers digital services and serves as a data bank and therapy tool for some certain illness, for example. The first service section, Mielenterveystalo.fi, which focuses on mental health, contains online therapy and guided activity.

”We have been deliberately waiting for national solutions. We are now involved in the ODA project (Self-care and digital value services). It is part of the government’s spearhead project to digitalize public services.”

Yrjö Koivusalo predicts digitalization will bring significant benefits to the actual care process in the near future. They are related to the utilization of big data, for example.

”Once we have all patient data in digital format, and we get information on the effects of treatment, we will be able to develop our treatment methods. This will streamline our operations and help us make better treatment decisions.”

Resource bank system saves 140,000 euros for VSSHP annually

Text: Jarno Salovuori
Photos: Jutta Tiilikainen
Translation: Päivi Vuoriaro

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Published in the Net Magazine 1/2016,  2016-05-20

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