Decision Support System helps medical specialists make best use of data to provide better healthcare

Hospitals collect massive amounts of medical data, day in day out. Data that is a potential treasure chest, as it allows them to improve the quality and efficiency of the healthcare services they provide. However, many medical institutions experience this treasure chest as a black box – a box of useless, unstructured data. Raymond Beijen, Regional Sales LogicNets Europe (partner of ICT Group), advises hospitals to use smart software that will allow them to deploy and thus benefit from collected data.

Unstructured reporting

I know from experience that medical data such as patient data, results of scans and blood tests are often recorded manually, even today. For instance, the results of a patient test by a medical specialist are often recorded in a handwritten or typed report. The drawback of “manual” recording lies in the fact that it is so-called plain text rather than structured data that can be queried. This makes research into better treatment methods of patients complicated, time-consuming and costly. What’s more, unstructured recording is error-prone: when a secretary has to re-type a hand-written report, interpretation errors may occur that may be overlooked during the check by the specialist.

Automatic decision support

Medical data can be recorded by means of decision support software. This software uses a decision tree to support the specialist in making the right diagnosis in a structured manner. The decision tree is a visual representation of the protocol to be followed. It is shown on the screen of the specialist who follows the tree by clicking on a series of choices (decisions). Because the decision support tool also stores the underlying test data in a central, queryable database, the data can be accessed for research into more effective treatment methods, to cite just one example. This allows medical data that is recorded and stored by means of this decision support software to contribute to higher quality healthcare services.

New tool in healthcare services

So far, the only specialists in the Netherlands who have worked with a decision support tool are pathologists. We, LogicNets en G2 Speech, are currently engaged in talks with radiologists to convince them of the added value of the tools. Our innovative tool is based on voice recognition. G2 Speech provides the required technology and LogicNet is the supplier of the decision support and structured reporting software. A radiologist uses his hands for his investigation of the image and dictates the decisions suggested by the tool, after which the tool marks the choices he made. Proper structuring of the information thus collected allows future research aimed at improving healthcare services in general.

‘Navigation help’ improves workflow

Because decision support tools assist specialists in conducting research in accordance with the applicable protocol, their work will also become more efficient and accurate. Protocols are like TomToms that navigate specialists through the entire healthcare and/or research process, right from an initial complaint to the diagnosis and the related treatment plan. However, many specialists, especially those with more experience, follow a protocol mentally. Although they nearly always arrive at the right diagnosis, sometimes they take a diversion route which takes longer than necessary. A decision support tool makes this impossible, and it reduces the likelihood of errors. What’s more, the tool records each research step, allowing the process to be checked later on.

In short, I believe that decision support software helps hospitals to improve the quality of their services. On the one hand, by making data available to facilitate research into better healthcare. And on the other, by safeguarding and checking adherence to applicable and mandatory protocols.  In addition, the tool enables specialists to work faster and with increased accuracy, and these benefits apply to all medical specializations.

Would you also like to improve the quality and efficiency of your healthcare services using decision support and structured reporting? Contact Raymond Beijen of LogicNets or Jeroen van Laarhoven of G2 Speech.  

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