Medical professionals are simply too busy with day-to-day work to stay on top of the latest research in their fields. How could the healthcare industry help them deliver more efficient, effective care?
Using IBM Cloud technology, Think Research provides applications that help doctors and nurses spend less time looking up research, protocols, and new modalities, and more time administering treatment.
Up to $50,000potential daily savings for hospitals through better post-treatment practices
2 hourssaved per patient admission by one nursing facility using Think Research’s eForms solution
Increased complianceand standardization of care through the use of checklists
Business challenge story
Finding the cure for busy doctors
Healthcare workers are incredibly busy with both patient care and associated administrative tasks. Not only must doctors diagnose, treat and track the recovery of their patients; they also have to stay up to date with current developments in medical science – a valuable but time-consuming part of the job.
Think Research aims to help clinicians spend less time filling out forms or looking up protocols, and more time at their patients’ bedside.
Alfred Wong, Vice President of Engineering at Think Research explains: “One study showed that a doctor would need to spend over 26 hours reading research papers non-stop to stay up to date on the latest developments in medical best practice. To make the impossible possible, we created our Patient Order Sets application—a tool that condenses medical research into easy-to-follow instructions that can be directly applied in a clinical setting.”
Building on the success of its flagship Patient Order Sets product, which provides clinical content into E.H.R. and other environments, Think Research decided to grow its business by developing a host of applications that impact each stage of a patient’s journey, from primary to acute to long-term care. The company now provides these tools across desktop and mobile environments, and offers stand-alone and HIS-integrated flexibility to meet the specific workflow needs of their clients.
“We were really eager to start developing a whole new suite of applications that would completely revolutionize healthcare in acute, community, and long-term care sectors,” continues Wong.
Secure, reliable, cloud services
With IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions providing reliable virtualization, and IBM Cloud Direct Link delivering high-performance, secure back-up and storage capabilities, Think Research can quickly and easily move VM-based application instances between on-premises and cloud infrastructure—facilitating rapid application deployment in a true hybrid environment.
As its solutions support the daily running of hospitals and other clinical establishments, Think Research must ensure that its applications are ultra-responsive and always-on. To provide a seamless user experience, the company uses IBM Cloud Content Delivery Network to speed up the delivery of application content direct to applications running on users’ mobile devices.
Wong continues: “Doctors and nurses cannot wait for critical patient information to load; any unexpected wait time for information negatively impacts clinical workflows. For this reason, we must keep our applications running smoothly at all times. IBM Cloud technology provides the high availability and strong performance that our applications need, while also offering the flexibility to scale our infrastructure in line with the peaks and troughs of user demand—no matter how many people are accessing an application.”
Throughout the migration process, Think Research mobilized the expertise of IBM experts at IBM Cloud Support.
“Running our applications on IBM Cloud also makes it easier for new clients to trust in the availability and security of our solutions,” explains Alfred Wong. Because IBM is recognized internationally for technological innovation and excellence, our clients can rest assured that their Think Research tools will run seamlessly and reliably.”
Think Research also migrated its existing on-premises private cloud infrastructure to a managed Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution on the IBM Cloud. The company established a private cloud environment on a dedicated IBM Cloud bare metal server, using IBM Cloud Object Storage and an IBM Compose Enterprise data warehouse.
“To operate in the North American healthcare sector, we must ensure our systems and services are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA],” says Wong. “This means that we must make sure that all protected health information [PHI] is stored securely and physically located in the country of origin. IBM stood apart from other vendors on this requirement, as they were committed to helping us meet HIPAA regulations by offering us guaranteed access to servers physically located in different countries. What’s more, the IBM team gave us excellent guidance on the best ways to secure our data and give users privileged-based access rights.”
We decided to implement IBM technology not only because of its inherent flexibility, but also because we could draw upon the knowledge of IBM consultants,” adds Wong. “This was especially important for us as we moved to a microservices-based application architecture with Kubernetes. By tapping into the expertise of IBM consultants, we reduced the risk of encountering difficulties during implementation, compared with learning Kubernetes ourselves from scratch.”
Based on their review of IBM Cloud services, Think Research adopted a containerized approach to their new community care applications, for which they now use the IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service and IBM Cloud Continuous Delivery. Their DevOps pipeline enables developers to build, test and deploy applications in easy-to-manage clusters.
With IBM Cloud technology powering its application development, Think Research can focus on building the solutions that will revolutionize the management and delivery of care, without having to invest in or maintain its own on-premises IT infrastructure.
Wong comments: “With IBM Cloud supporting our applications and development activities, we are able to be much more agile and accelerate the time taken to build, test and deploy new solutions. As IBM manages all our infrastructure for us, we no longer need to worry about how much memory, CPU usage and disk storage we need to take our solutions to the next stage of development, giving us more time and resources to dedicate to building new tools.”
The company’s solution is being deployed in thousands of hospitals and long-term care facilities and helps clinicians adopt the latest best-practice guidelines in their specialty area while improving system efficiencies in a variety of different ways.
In the acute setting, for example, “With our Patient Order Sets application, a tool that translates knowledge on the latest best practices in healthcare into a clinical checklist of sorts, we have started to help hospitals see the potential efficiencies and improvements that can be achieved,” says Wong. A recent study, for example, showed that if cancer patients chew gum after treatment, their appetite is stimulated, encouraging them to eat. By adding a reminder, or nudge, to prescribe chewing gum after treatment into its Patient Order Sets, Think Research could help doctors build up their patients’ strength faster and discharge them sooner. With the cost of keeping patients in the hospital overnight up to $50,000, this simple reminder could help hospitals save hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient.
In the long-term care environment, using Think Research’s eForms application, one facility in Massachusetts has already managed to save two hours per patient on the administration required to process their admission paperwork in a clinically (and administratively) appropriate way. This means that skilled clinicians can now spend less time getting residents into the system, and more time focused on their care pathways.
Finally, in the community or primary care environments, in recent months, Think Research has rolled out its VirtualCare solution, an application that allows patients to engage with clinicians virtually —increasing access to healthcare for patients while making it more convenient for physicians, specialists, and other clinicians to see more patients.
The virtual care application is currently running in Ontario as part of a pilot program, which has seen approximately 1,200 patients and 36 healthcare providers register on the platform. The application supported more than 800 virtual appointments in its first four months, and IBM Cloud will seamlessly scale up as demand increases.
Wong concludes: “We have really only just scratched the surface with our digital healthcare solutions. Each time we build a new application, we see new possibilities for further development or new uses of technology in healthcare space. Thanks to the support of IBM and the flexibility of IBM Cloud technology, we can focus on building digital solutions that empower clinicians to provide better care more efficiently.”
About Think Research
Founded in Ontario in 2006, Think Research develops innovative cloud-based clinical support tools that empower doctors and other healthcare professionals to deliver evidence-based care more efficiently.