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Data on the Go

June 14, 2013
by John DeGaspari
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Dignity Health initiative aims to combine data from disparate sources

The challenge of interoperability will be an issue for hospital systems of all sizes for as long as clinicians find an increasing array of mobile devices at their disposal. San Francisco-based Dignity Health, formerly Catholic Healthcare West, with 39 hospitals and approximately 300 care centers in California, Arizona and Nevada, has stepped up to the challenge by implementing a mobility platform that integrates and presents data from disparate sources to physicians’ mobile devices.

The platform, called AirStrip One (supplied by AirStrip Technologies, San Antonio, Texas), was implemented by Dignity Health in late February as a pilot program in its hospitals and medical groups in Arizona. The health system is a development partner with AirStrip, which maintains that the platform is the first enterprise-wide data- and vendor-agnostic mobility solution to deliver secure patient data from medical devices, electronic medical records (EMRs) and patient monitors to clinicians across the care continuum. Initially, the target device will be the iPad because of its large market share, and eventually will be extended to the iPhone and Android devices as well.

Scott Whyte, Dignity Health’s vice president of IT connectivity, explains that the health system’s current collaboration grew out of an earlier implementation of AirStrip OB, an obstetrics and gynecology solution that delivers live patient waveform data such as fetal heart rate and maternal contraction patterns, as well as vital signs and nursing notes, to a clinician’s mobile device. 

Whyte says that the AirStrip OB solution was brought to the IT department’s attention two years ago by a Dignity Health physician, and after a successful pilot it is now it is completing the solution’s rollout in all of the system’s 39 hospitals. He notes that the solution received support from the physicians themselves, its implementation was relatively low cost in terms of integration, and that one of its advantages is that it presents complex clinical data in a simple touch interface.

Whyte says that following that implementation, AirStrip offered to collaborate with Dignity Health in the development of additional products, which happened to align with the health system’s focus on clinical integration and accountable care. One of the challenges that Dignity Health faced in establishing a clinical care integration model was partnering with all of the players in its far-flung network, which encompasses primary hospitals, surgery centers, employed and non-employed physicians, and other care givers.

“How do you coordinate care and provide access to this data when everybody is in many different systems, and how do you make it easy for them to do?” Whyte asks. The result of the collaboration is the AirStrip One Core Mobility Platform, which Dignity Health launched as a pilot in late February. It ties together data from disparate clinical sources such medical devices, electronic medical records (EMRs), and presents the data in a set of mobility solutions for labor and delivery, cardiology, EMRs and patient monitoring.

Dignity Health’s first implementations are in Arizona, at the Chandler Regional Medical Center and the Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, where it will support the Arizona Care Network, a Medicare Shared Savings accountable care organization (ACO). It will then be implemented at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, where it will integrate EMR data from Dignity Health’s Cerner house-wide EMR and Allscripts ambulatory system.

Whyte says plans are to use the mobility platform for both the health system’s medical group as well as community physicians, who make up about 75 percent of the physicians. For the ACO, it will be able to present population health metrics for each physician. “There will be a tremendous benefit to the community physicians, because they will have on their iPads the ability to look at that clinical integration data,” he says. 

Whyte says that the mobility platform can also tie in data from Dignity Health’s health information exchanges (HIEs), which it operates in most of its markets. The mobility platform fills a gap, because it delivers monitoring information in near real-time, a capability that the health system’s HIEs currently lack, he says.

In Whyte’s view, the big advantage of the mobile platform implementation is its ability to present all kinds of data, both clinical and business, on a single platform. He calls the initiative a breakthrough approach, and that more functionality will be added gradually.

The plumbing that seamlessly integrates the data from disparate sources is invisible to the physician users, but the benefits will be evident, he says. With a single sign-on, physicians will be able to navigate between viewing HL7 data, cardiology and patient monitoring, as well as viewing acute care data and Allscripts data side by side, he says. He adds that the health system has built in time for feedback from the physicians who will use it, and their suggestions may be included in future iterations.