A ground-breaking trial is showing early promise into how cloud technology and artificial intelligence can produce a faster diagnosis and care for patients – no matter where they are.
This innovative partnership between NSW Health Pathology, eHealth NSW and Microsoft is the first trial of its kind in Australia and could have far-reaching impacts on how to improve patient care.
Using point-of-care devices, encrypted pathology test results and clinical observations are being uploaded to the internet reliably, securely and accurately through the 4G mobile network using services that are audited by the Australian Signals Directorate – the government agency that defends Australia from cyber threats.
It means patients could be tested in the back of an ambulance, on a football field or while undergoing surgery, and have their pathology results available to clinicians in real-time.
The technology is being piloted at six NSW Health public hospitals (Buladelah, John Hunter Children’s, Orange, Trangie, Wagga Wagga and Westmead) in a range of clinical settings including hospital emergency departments, wards, clinics and pathology collection centres.
In some hospitals, particularly those in rural settings, the ability to connect modern medical devices to electronic clinical systems can be limited by access to the internet.
Using the cloud, test results and electronic clinical observations can be uploaded automatically and transmitted to treating clinician regardless of the local information technology infrastructure available.
“Point of care testing is vital to providing immediate, accurate results for certain pathology tests which can save lives in locations that don’t have 24/7 labs, so by enabling more services to offer this testing we’re helping clinicians diagnose and treat more patients more quickly,” said James Patterson, NSW Health Pathology’s Chief Information Officer.
And it’s not just connecting through the cloud that’s new – the pilot is also testing new ways to use the results to improve patient care.
In Blacktown and Westmead Hospitals, the point of care pathology results are being combined with other vital signs results to help identify when patients are at risk of sepsis in the Emergency Department– a potentially life-threatening condition.
The Microsoft Azure cloud is at the heart of the pilot; its scale and reach make the service deployable anywhere in NSW over both internal networks and via secure mobile networks. Additional Microsoft technologies including CosmosDB, IoT Hub, Event Hub, DataBricks, Power BI and Dynamics 365 are also being leveraged.
Working with Microsoft, NSW Health Pathology explored how it could bring together results from PoCT devices and vital signs monitors and combine that with additional data such as clinical observations, and patient demographics, to intelligently predict the risk of sepsis in a patient allowing clinicians to act much faster.
“Being able to run algorithms on patient information as it’s transmitted to their electronic medical record and apply analytics to help doctors detect when a patient is at risk of this condition is highly promising,” said Mr Patterson.
“Early detection and therefore earlier treatment will help save lives and help reduce the number of people suffering long-term complications.”
Lachlan Rudd, eHealth’s Director of Data and Analytics said removing the need for people to transpose results between machines means answers are delivered accurately and faster to clinicians to help understand exactly what’s happening in a busy emergency department.
Steven Worrall, managing director, Microsoft Australia, said the trial was a potentially huge step forward in providing advanced statewide pathology testing, heralding faster and smarter testing, speedier treatment and better outcomes.
“Eventually this approach could transform the way diagnostic tests are carried out, making sure those patients that most need it have access to real-time tests and results regardless of where they live,” Mr Worrall said.
About NSW Health Pathology’s point of care testing
NSW Health Pathology provides the world’s largest managed point of care testing service.
With more than 680 devices already being used in over 200 hospitals in NSW, we have a proven track record of delivering reliable pathology tests.
Point of care testing means clinicians are better equipped than ever, with access to immediate results that can make all the difference to a patient needing urgent care.
Tests are done in real-time, no matter the location.
We respond quickly to service issues and provide ongoing training and support – both in person and online.