News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
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‘Care Studio’ is designed to give physicians a ‘single, centralized view’ of patients’ records that are spread among multiple disparate databases within a healthcare system

Lack of interoperability between electronic health records (EHRs) has been a thorn in the side of healthcare providers—including clinical laboratorians and pathologists—who have to search multiple healthcare organizations’ databases to pull together medical records on individual patients. Google Health claims it may have the answer to the longstanding issue of siloed patient records.

Google Health and St. Louis-based Ascension, one of the largest healthcare systems in the US, have announced the clinical pilot of their new Care Studio platform. The software tool, according to the Care Studio website, “leverages Google’s expertise in organizing information to help clinicians find health record information faster.

“The tool’s Clinical Search feature,” Google Health continues, “enables nurses and doctors to simply type what they’re looking for and quickly find the specific information requested—which might otherwise require significant time and effort to uncover.”

Essentially, Care Studio complements existing EHR systems and enables healthcare providers to quickly search and organize previously siloed patient healthcare data stored on multiple EHRs within a health system. If successful, such a tool would clearly help streamline physicians’ workflows and shave hours off their daily patient research.

According to Google Health, Care Studio is a cross-platform EHR tool that gives clinicians a “single, centralized view that brings forward a patient’s hospital visits, outpatient events, laboratory tests, medications and treatments, and progress notes.”

Gathered data then can be visualized in tables, graphs, and other formats.

Care Studio screenshot
“Using Google’s expertise in organizing complex information, Care Studio (above) provides a unified view of patient records, making them more accessible and useful for clinicians,” Peter Clardy, MD, Senior Clinical Specialist at Google Health, said in the launch video. “In Care Studio, you can browse and search through patient information.” Clinical laboratory test results will be included in these screen views. (Photo copyright: YouTube/Ascension.)

According to Medical Device Network, Google and Ascension originally introduced Care Studio to a small number of providers at Ascension’s Nashville and Jacksonville, Fla., locations. They are now expanding the pilot to more nurses and physicians working in clinical settings.

David Feinberg, MD video
“So, why Google?” David Feinberg, MD (above), VP, Google Health, asked in a video announcement. “Google is really, really good at organizing information, and these electronic health records have amazing amounts of information. But they are unusable. So, we want to bring the functionality of Google—the way to kind of organize information—so doctors can spend more time holding your hand, looking into your eye, and having the difficult conversations with you instead of being data clerks. Part of that is allowing them to find the needle in the haystack in your medical record in seconds, instead of days.” This, of course, would include clinical laboratory test results, which make up 80% of all medical records. (Photo copyright: YouTube/Google Health.)

Delivering Effective and Efficient Care

In “Association of Electronic Heath Record Design and Use Factors with Clinician Stress and Burnout,” published in JAMA Network Open, 73.1% of clinicians surveyed reported that “inaccessibility of information from multiple institutions” was identified as a major pain point in using EHRs and a factor associated with clinician “stress and burnout.”

In a blog post, Eduardo Conrado, Executive Vice President, Strategy and Innovation at Ascension, wrote, “In current EHR systems, clinical information too often is buried in siloed records scattered across hospitals, clinics, urgent care centers, pharmacies, physician offices, labs, and other sites of care, making it challenging for physicians and caregivers to efficiently deliver coordinated and precise care.

“When information is finally retrieved from these disparate EHR systems,” he added, “it is usually poorly organized and fragmented. Most clinicians work in an environment where data is incomplete, inaccessible, and delivered in disjointed bursts of information without context.”

COVID-19 Accelerates Need for Improvements in Data Access

Conrado notes that the ability for clinicians to quickly retrieve and organize a patient’s complete clinical history is “the essence of delivering effective and efficient care.” He wrote that the “once-in-a-generation” COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for improvements in public health infrastructure, health technology services, and care delivery models and “reinforced the significant impact that complex and often confusing EHR systems, and the fragmentation of patient health data, have on delivering effective care.”

While the collaboration between Ascension and Google began in 2018, Conrado said “remarkable” progress was made on Care Studio this past year.

Conrado did not state how long the clinical pilot of Care Studio would last but emphasized that the technology will be enhanced with additional features and improvements based on feedback from pilot clinicians. Ultimately, the clinical search tool will be made available to all caregivers across Ascension’s 2,600 sites of care, including 145 hospitals and more than 40 senior living facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

In his blog post, Conrado reiterated that Care Studio complies with all HIPAA regulations as well as the Business Associate Agreement (BAA) that governs Protected Health Information.

Clinical laboratories should welcome this development. Any software tool or information technology that allows clinical laboratory test data to move across different EHRs will help interoperability.

—Andrea Downing Peck

Related Information:

Google Expands Controversial Pilot Project Using Patient Data

Ascension Continuing Efforts to Improve Patients’ Lives, Caregivers’ Experience

Association of Electronic Health Record Design and Use Factors with Clinician Stress and Burnout

Google Health–Helping Clinicians Focus on Their Patients