digital Transformation

Why is there a need to drive Digital Transformation into Palliative Care?

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Improving patient quality of life through Data integration in palliative care

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.

WHO constitution

There has always been a lingering question around Palliative care- has there been enough integration of digital technology in all areas imaginable, is there something more that can be done to improve end of life experiences?

Palliative care is developing faster than we can imagine and decision makers face two of the most important challenges –

  • First, where and when these services should be developed : A WHO report, states that globally only 14% people in need of palliative care actually receive it
  • Second, how they should be made available : Absence of training and awareness of palliative care among healthcare professionals is a key obstacle to improving access

Data integration effectively integrates hospices, palliative care services, and local healthcare services to support and comfort patients with palliative care needs and improves care delivery across the care continuum.

Technology integration is that missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of effective use of home health care. Be it appointment tracking of patients or devising long-term care strategies, this is perhaps the key to both patient satisfaction and high quality care. The more the information available with just a few clicks the easier the lending of care becomes.

So in order that patients are cared for better, and providers can care better, we need data integration. Over the course of this blog, I will also talk about who needs to have data integration in place, and what kind of solution can actually help make this a reality.

Why the need for data integration

It is not easy for families to look at all the medical needs of a patient and also say their final goodbyes with equal ease.

So how can healthcare providers use innovative technology to help patients receive better care, and families spend more time with their loved ones, and in all this – how can data integration actually be the answer they are looking for?

Here is why data integration can actually help:

  • All-inclusive patient support : With an EMR or an EHR fully integrated i.e. fully detailed patient profiles and analytics functions, it is easy for physicians to get a complete understanding of not just the current conditions of the patient, but also the pattern in which it changed over time.
  • Wider range of care: By integrating patient portals to EMRs and clinical databases, patients can get easy access to health information. They can schedule appointments, get reminders, access their medical history etc. Care can be extended further by introducing video conferencing and streaming technology to cater better to patients in isolated areas by home health providers.
  • More efficient operations: When different data sources and systems come together through technology, the workflow is far more streamlined, the costs reduced, care more efficient. By integrating technology for palliative care, home care agencies make the exchange of data easier.
  • Better collaboration: When data is available in a single place in real-time, access to information becomes easier, and so does the collaboration and connection not just between patients and physicians, but between providers as well.
  • Insightful improvements : With all the data in one place, the available information can be utilized better by physicians and providers to gain insights about patients, improve quality of care and also probably help understand patterns in patient diseases
  • Data integrity: With an integration strategy properly in place, data becomes error free, without inconsistencies, or duplication, and accurate. This withholds the integrity of the data and validates all the information that is passing through

To reiterate the need for effective use of data, I would like to draw a parallel to a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study focused on patients newly diagnosed with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. The results showed that patients who received standard oncological care and met clinicians frequently had a better quality of life, lower rate of depression, and had a survival benefit of 2.7 months.

This means that through early diagnosis, timely intervention, strong and personalized patient support, increased scope of care, and streamlined operations, technology integration for home health care becomes an achievable and potentially beneficial goal.

Who needs data integration

A report states that global Big Data in the healthcare market was $11.45 billion in 2016 and will have double digit growth by 2025.

The report also added that healthcare data volume surged to over 700 exabytes in 2017 from 153 exabytes in 2013, and is estimated to grow to 2,314 exabytes by late 2020. According to the report, the factors that can contribute to the growth, to name a few, include emergence of cloud-based services and subscription models, government initiatives encouraging adoption of healthcare information systems, mHealth, eHealth, and wearable technologies.

Here is a diagram that best illustrates the sectors that need data integration for improved quality of care.


Hospitals and healthcare organizations will have to prioritize their investments and focus on improving patient outcomes. Ever mounting healthcare costs, increasing number of chronic diseases, aging population, and reducing reimbursement costs will necessitate this very investment.  The supply of health-related data from various data points can transform healthcare, provide value-based care, improve patient outcomes, and reduce costs.


By having patient information from different care locations in real time and in a single place, data integration – a wider term being interoperability – has given a true picture of what a patient actually experiences.

Providers need to turn to data integration when they:

  • Cannot identify all patients due to lack of connected systems
  • Have difficulty in communicating with patients and family for which advanced care planning discussion become necessary
  • Do not pre-plan nor have the capacity to predict needs, which means no proactive care
  • Possess too much data and have no means to store or control it securely
  • Have new and/or old (legacy) apps that don’t talk to each other
  • Have low end-user adoption

Data integration requires truly integrated systems, ones that can exchange data and present it in a comprehensive manner on a user-friendly interface.

This is a standard data integration approach:

  1. Data consolidation: Using ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) technology, you can bring data together from several EHRs and create a consolidated data in a single data store. This will help reduce the number of data storage locations.
  2. Data Propagation: You can use both EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) and EDR (Enterprise Data Replication) technology to copy data from one location to another. Through EAI you can link your application system for messages and transactions. If you have large amounts of data, use EDR to transfer between databases.
  3. Data Virtualization: Through EII (Enterprise Information Integration), you can get near real-time and unified view of data from different sources. You can benefit with this approach since data is viewed in one location but not necessarily stored at one. In certain circumstances, it has also proved to be more cost effective than data consolidation.
  4. Data warehouse: You can even build your own EDW (Enterprise Data Warehouse) for the purposes of centralizing your business information from various sources and for reporting and analysing data.

In conclusion, the aim of data integration for palliative care should always be to improve care for patients and their families, alleviate the burden of symptoms, and improve the quality of life.

Improving digital systems like the EHR can go a long way in improving the ability of the clinical staff to work efficiently. By identifying palliative care patients or home health patients needing hospice care early through predictive analysis, we can ensure that patients, their families, and providers have conversations much sooner so that the right care is delivered at the right time.

It is important to use data meaningfully so that it can in turn influence healthcare policy and clinical care. With the right technology, closing gaps, reducing errors, and improving quality of life becomes possible. For the future of palliative care, greater access to health information and better ways of data exchange are needed. With little time in patients’ hands, we will need to help them make the most of it through technology.

Nitor has successfully used data integration techniques by helping clients make meaningful use of data, write to us to know more about our services.

About Nalini Vijayraghavan

Lead Marcom Executive

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine learning/Azure serverless
Nalini, a Lead Marcom Executive at Nitor for a little over 3 years. A believer in Murphy’s law, an ardent Sherlock Holmes fan, and a math atheist, Nalini writes for a living (literally that is why her salary is deposited in her account). Movies and books are her happy place. Her knowledge of all things man-made or natural is limited to what the Internet and books can tell her (so a word of caution as you read what she writes – take it with a bucket of salt).