Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health awards Clemson grants for research on cancer treatment, genetics, patient care16 projects funded with generosity of Prisma Health team see more
The Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health has awarded Clemson University researchers 16 grants that range from projects on cancer treatments to the use of exoskeletons for health care providers.
The seed funding supports the mission of the center, a collaborative effort between Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, Furman University and Prisma Health to foster cooperative research.
Windsor Westbrook Sherrill, associate vice president of health research at Clemson University and chief science officer at Prisma Health, hopes that these projects will inform best practices within health care research and influence positive change within the health care system.
“This year’s submissions were phenomenal, and we look forward to seeing the results from these 16 funded projects. Having clinicians and academic researchers involved in these projects ensures that the research has the best chance of creating transformation in health care and health outcomes,” Sherrill said. “Since this program began seven years ago, several projects have received large federal funding and results have been implemented at Prisma Health, helping improve the care of their patients.”
Click here to read complete details about the one-year grant projects, including the names of Clemson and Prisma Health researchers.
Expands Prisma Health patient access to laboratory testing see more
In the exchange, Labcorp will acquire select assets of Prisma Health’s outreach lab operations, slated for the second half of 2022, according to a news release.
Labcorp recently partnered with Walmart to distribute at-home COVID-19 tests free of charge.
“Prisma Health is an established leader in providing health care and diagnostic services to South Carolina residents, and its dedication to its patients closely aligns with Labcorp’s mission to improve health and improve lives,” Traci Butler, senior vice president of Labcorp Diagnostics’ Atlantic Division, said in the news release. “This relationship builds on Labcorp’s strong track record of providing the critical information that patients and providers need to make the best possible health decisions. It also underscores our commitment and dedication to the people who call the Carolinas home.”
The new relationship will expand Prisma Health patients’ access to laboratory testing throughout South Carolina and offer individualized, dedicated support to physician practices, modeled after Labcorp’s partnerships with other health care systems, according to the release.
“Labcorp brings the scale and expertise of its internationally recognized laboratory services to help us achieve the next level of service and quality in this highly specialized area,” Clarence Sevillian, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Prisma Health, said in the release. “We pride ourselves on providing the best possible experiences for our patients and providers. This relationship is another way we are building on our strong reputation of quality care and compassionate service, helping people in communities across South Carolina live their healthiest lives.”
Once the transactions are complete, Prisma Health patients and clinicians will have access to a spectrum of services through Labcorp’s lab test menu, along with its national network of patient service centers.
Labcorp will also offer expanded health plan coverage, additional access to rural markets and the potential for reduced out-of-pocket lab costs for patients, according to the release. Additionally, Labcorp will collaborate with Prisma Health to provide same-day STAT testing in local communities.
Specific terms of the transactions were not disclosed.
Looking to expand in Upstate South Carolina see more
UofSC’s Office of Innovation, Partnerships and Economic Engagement (OIPEE) is seeking to expand its footprint in the Upstate.
OIPEE Deputy Director Chad Hardaway said his office is focused on connecting innovators and entrepreneurs with university resources to help navigate the process from developing an idea to bringing it to the marketplace. To help accomplish that goal, Hardaway recently added consultant Sam English to the team.
With a background in biochemistry, English said he will be working with Prisma Health innovators to connect with OIPEE resources. In the two months since coming on board, he said he has been reaching out to people within the Prisma system to understand what the needs are and how to connect them with the innovation ecosystem at UofSC.
“It’s fertile ground to be working in,” English said. “While I’ve only been here two months, I feel like I’ve been drinking from the fire hose.”
He added that he’s discussed everything from back-of-the-envelope ideas to fully functional prototypes of medical devices developed by Prisma staff.
Hardaway said that while English is focused on strengthening relationships with the Prisma system, the longer-term goal is to expand OIPEE’s Upstate presence to include a satellite office dedicated to broader innovation initiatives in fields like cybersecurity, aerospace and high-tech manufacturing, often referred to now as Manufacturing 4.0.
English and Hardaway said a core motto of OIPEE is to “connect, collaborate and commercialize.” English added that with the Upstate’s pool of engineering talent, thanks to the influence of companies like BMW and Lockheed-Martin, many of the pieces are already in place to build on and expand an innovation environment.
He said his job is, in part, to pave the way for OIPEE to become more involved in helping build the series of connections that link creativity to a marketable product.
“With that integrated approach, there are a lot of opportunities to develop successes,” English said.
For more information about USC’s Office of Innovation, Partnerships and Economic Engagement, visit sc.edu/about/offices_and_divisions/economic_engagement.
Artificial intelligence a critical factor in improving healthcare, booming life sciences industry see more
HCA Healthcare and Google Cloud are partnering to use data analytics and artificial intelligence along with patient information in a move they say will transform health care delivery and improve outcomes.
It’s the latest step in the evolution of the fusion between health care and data.
Prisma Health recently announced a partnership with Siemens Healthineers. And the Medical University of South Carolina has been working with Siemens Healthineers for years as well as Microsoft.
Proponents say these arrangements benefit patients and providers alike. But they also raise concerns about the security of patient information.
“What they’re doing is harnessing the power of big data to drive informed change and informed decision making,” said Dr. Christine Carr, an emergency physician and senior clinical advisor with the South Carolina Hospital Association.
“Instead of a clinician on the floor saying, ‘I think this is the best way we should do our physician schedules or manage heart failure,’ we have so much data and analytic power now,” she told Integrated Media, publisher of Greenville Business Magazine, Columbia Business Monthly and Charleston Business Magazine. “It’s kind of like your iPhone, knowing where you’re going when you get in the car. We realize we have to get ahead of the disease.”
If a patient has shortness of breath, for example, providers can use data tools to predict if he has a pulmonary embolism without doing any testing, Carr said. And if he does, other tools can help determine whether he should be admitted to the hospital or sent home on medication, she said.
“The real power of using big data in health care is that it helps us deliver more efficient, high-quality care with fewer disparities,” adds Caroline Brown, chief of external affairs for MUSC and the Medical University Hospital Authority.
“There is tremendous value in marrying disparate data that lives in different places to transform the way we deliver care. There are huge benefits for patients for this data to come together,” she said. “We can practice in a more preventive way than a reactive way.”
But how accurate are these tools? Carr says they’re validated to a high degree of certainty so the clinician knows the risks.
“They are extremely accurate,” she said, adding that doctors are still the ones making the decisions.
“It delivers information but you as a human have to ultimately decide what to do,” she said. “And any unique person is a unique person. Sometimes, I just override it. And sometimes I’m right. There are still humans, for now, at the end.”
Another benefit of predictive analytics is lowering costs, Carr said.
For instance, by analyzing a patient’s information, a doctor may determine that she only needs a mammogram every three years instead of annually, she said. And it can predict the risk of hospital readmissions too, she added, “which is a big financial driver for hospitals.”
Carr speculates that all large health systems are getting into the predictive analytics space, adding that insurance companies have been using it for years to predict population health based on ZIP code, health history and socioeconomic factors.
Founded in 1968, Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is a for-profit system with some 2,000 care locations - including 186 hospitals - in 20 states and the United Kingdom.
Google Cloud, which “aims to accelerate companies’ digital transformation,” says it has business customers in more than 200 countries.
A spokesman for HCA said the company would have no comment beyond a press release and a Google spokeswoman did not return calls.
But in that release, HCA CEO Sam Hazen said that “next-generation care demands data science-informed decision support so we can more sharply focus on safe, efficient and effective patient care.”
And Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said, “The cloud can be an accelerant for innovation in health, particularly in driving data interoperability, which is critical in streamlining operations and providing better quality of care to improve patient outcomes.”
Meanwhile, Adam Landau, vice president of marketing and corporate affairs for HCA’s South Atlantic Division, said in an email that it’s too early to know what the partnership will mean for its South Carolina hospitals - Colleton Medical Center in Walterboro, Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach and Trident Health, which consists of Trident Medical Center in Charleston and Summerville Medical Center in Summerville.
“I can tell you that we’re proud to be a part of HCA Healthcare,” he said. “In combination with significant investments in mobility to support clinical care … this partnership accelerates the work of HCA Healthcare clinicians, data scientists and developers by providing highly scalable technology from Google Cloud.”
For example, he said, technology has been developed using predictive analytics that helps detect sepsis early, potentially saving lives. Another application uses clinical observations and ventilator-streamed data to reduce the length of stay for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and increase survival rates of Covid patients by 28 percent, he said.
Brown said that health care is behind other consumer-driven industries in delivering on 21st century data technology.
“One thing the … industry has been behind on is this whole consumer experience and digitalization of that over the last years,” she said. “Customers are expecting and demanding easier access to health care, they want to do so virtually from home, and in other formats that previously weren’t commonplace.”
MUSC is using data analytics to help identify gaps in care, to map workflow so the system is more efficient, and to reduce wait times for patients, among other things, she said.
A partnership with Medtronic uses more consistent monitoring technology in hospitalized patients to reduce the number of adverse respiratory events in patients prescribed opioids, she said. Another project aims to prevent hospitalizations by catching patients with heart failure and intervening earlier.
MUSC also worked with Microsoft using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to detect and address potentially deadly sepsis in hospitalized patients, she said.
Prisma said its 10-year partnership with Siemens will use AI to develop algorithms to help clinicians make more informed decisions, allowing for quicker and more precise diagnoses and treatment plans.
Some of the AI will be embedded in new imaging machines as software while other AI will be developed through the partnership. Siemens will also have health economists on site studying new technologies to see if they reduce health care costs.
But with a growing number of entities gaining access to patient information, just how secure are arrangements like these?
Nationwide, the number of health information data breaches affecting 500 or more people grew from 329 in 2016 to 648 in 2020, with hacking events growing from 78 to 230 and ransomware attacks soaring from 36 to 199 during that time frame, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Ransomware is a multibillion-dollar industry, said James Andrew Lewis, senior vice president and director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
And hospitals make good targets because attackers are purely about the money and go after what will generate the most return, he added.
“You can hack a hospital and make $4 million or hack an individual and make $4,000,” he said. “These guys like bulk business. Not onesies or twosies.”
Most hospitals pay because it’s not worth the hassle, Lewis said.
Some have insurance to cover ransomware attacks. But most attackers hone in on what they think the target can afford and go for that at the hospitals that are easier to breach, he said. And if they think the hospital can pay $4 million, they’ll start out asking for $6 million, he said.
So moving to the cloud makes sense, Lewis said, because while it’s not impossible to hack, it is much more difficult and could be more secure. A lot depends on the terms of the contract, such as where the data will be stored and how it will limit the risk to privacy, he said.
Both Google and HCA say their arrangement will protect patient privacy and data by using “layers of security controls and processes” and complying with federal privacy requirements.
“The partnership is founded on strict guiding principles around privacy and security,” Landau said. “Our contract prohibits Google Cloud from the use of patient identifiable information.”
Brown said MUSC also only uses deidentified patient data for its projects. That means information like names and addresses are removed but relevant clinical data remain, subject to privacy guide rails, she said.
“Cybersecurity is a huge issue globally across all industries, and health care is no different,” she said. “Any arrangement … has to be done with utmost scrutiny to make sure patients are kept first, and commit to making sure they are protected.”
A lot of the push for these types of relationships comes from hospitals looking to solve complex health care problems on a large scale, said MUSC chief information security officer Aaron Heath.
Machine learning is helping to do that with the use of lots of data, he said, but when those two intersect, there has to be a mechanism to share the least amount of data necessary.
At the end of the day, he said, a hospital doesn’t need to put patient privacy on the hook to solve its problems.
“If we want to solve for sepsis in the hospital - detect it often and early and respond quickly - we don’t have to share patient data,” he said. “Hospitals are … only sharing the minimum amount of data to accomplish goals.”
Nonetheless, he said, it’s not without risk and hospitals need to have contracts with digital companies that prevent data from being used for any other purpose.
“There are a lot of controls we can take,” he said, “because it’s really important.”
Prisma Health said that protecting patient privacy is critical and that it has multiple systems and checks in place to safeguard it.
“As part of our Siemens Healthineers’ intelligent insights center, we will use de-identified, blinded patient data,” spokeswoman Sandy Dees said in a statement. “Under no circumstances will specific identifiers such as names, birth dates or addresses be used.”
When it comes to ransomware, hospitals are in a tough position because they can’t stop business for an attack, said Heath. MUSC has layers of defense designed to mitigate the ransomware threat so if one is breached, another kicks in, he said.
“You may not get hit by ransomware, but I can assure you your system is being targeted by phishing emails,” he said. “We are monitoring systems at all times to look for and flag potential phishing emails and get them out of our system because it’s such a common (and easy) avenue of attack. We have seen phishing emails come in to us intended to ultimately trigger an attack, but have caught them.”
A significant problem in dealing with ransomware is that most attacks come from outside the U.S. and there’s a lack of international law enforcement to allay it, Heath said.
“It’s a real challenge to stop this activity across the globe because it can be conducted from anywhere,” he said.
So MUSC invests “quite a bit” in new technology and the staff to support it, he said. And the system is constantly monitoring security and conducting training because cybercrime is a moving target that requires frequent adjustments, he said.
Still, Lewis said that ransomware “is not rocket science,” and that hospitals should be able to deal with it by backing up and encrypting data and spending more on IT to keep current.
“A big cloud provider makes you more secure. It’s their business,” he said. “Hospitals - their business is patient care, and (those) that invest proactively are better able to protect data.”
A federal health care cybersecurity task force established by HHS produced a report in 2017 that outlined ways to improve protection of health information, among them increasing the security and resilience of medical devices and health IT like electronic medical records; ensuring that the health care workforce prioritizes cybersecurity; and enhancing health care industry readiness through improved cybersecurity awareness and education.
“It’s sad we have to do this,” Lewis said. “But it’s the world we’re in and we have to pay more attention.”
Helping patients stay out of hospital, recover faster see more
Prisma Health is taking key elements of inpatient care into patients’ homes to help them stay out of the hospital under a new program for the Midlands called Home Recovery Care.
The model has been used at Prisma Health hospitals in the Upstate, according to a news release.
For patients under care through Prisma Health Richland Hospital, the organization partners with Nashville, Tenn.-based Contessa to deliver the service at its third site, the news release said.
The program launched at Greenville Memorial Hospital in 2019 and expanded to Oconee Memorial Hospital last year. In the Upstate, the program has a 90% acceptance rate and an average patient satisfaction score of 98%, according to the release.
Prisma Health was one of the first health systems approved to provide Home Recovery Care to Medicare fee-for-service patients under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Hospitals Without Walls waiver, the release said. Programs that encourage hospitals to find healthy ways to stay out of emergency rooms and hospital rooms have been part of Medicare/Medicaid rules for years, with the COVID-19 pandemic spurring more efforts.
“Prisma Health has had great success with the program in the Upstate, and we are thrilled to provide this level of home care to more South Carolinians by adding it at Richland,” Bo Cofield, Prisma Health Richland Hospital CEO, said in the release. “The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced that going beyond the walls of the traditional hospital setting often gives our patients a better option for acute-level health care. Home Recovery Care was in place before the pandemic, but it is now gaining momentum. We believe this kind of service is essential to the care of our patients and is an important component of health care.”
Home recovery is more satisfying for patients and costs less than traditional recovery in a hospital, according to the release.
The care is for patients with acute, non-life-threatening medical conditions. Roughly 150 diagnoses are considered eligible for the service and range from congestive heart failure and pneumonia to dehydration, cellulitis and urinary tract infections. Patients must be evaluated by a Prisma Health doctor to determine if their conditions can be safely treated in the home instead of a standard hospital environment, according to the release.
The program includes 24-hour access to a recovery care coordinator and continual monitoring for up to 30 days, the release said. The in-home work is done by Prisma Health’s home-health registered nurses and by physician consultation utilizing telehealth.
“Since we launched the program, we have served 300 patients and saved patients from being hospitalized for 1,000 additional inpatient days,” Angela Orsky, vice president of post-acute services at Prisma Health, said in the release. “Our patient likelihood to recommend scores are 100, and we are exceeding all our quality targets. Our home health clinicians in partnership with our hospitalists have exceled in the ability to care for complex patients safely in their homes.”
Prisma aligns with Siemens Healthineers see more
Prisma Health is entering a 10-year partnership with German technology company Siemens to become more efficient and improve patient care, the companies announced June 22.
Prisma staff members will work with technology experts from the Siemens Healthineers division to evaluate how the company uses technology to treat patients, including the use of artificial intelligence.
Prisma Health, the state’s largest hospital system, needs to keep improving how it works as the challenges of health care, from rising costs to keeping a trained workforce, keep mounting, Prisma Health CEO Mark O’Halla said.
“We have to get better — better outcomes and cheaper,” O’Halla said.
One of the roles that technology can play is to make work more efficient for the staff, both through better systems and training, said Dave Pacitti, president for the Americas of Siemens Healthineers, the health care tech portion of the German engineering giant.
That should bring more time for clinical staff to treat patients, he said.
No financial terms of the 10-year partnership were disclosed, but Pacitti said it is his company’s largest partnership with a health care provider.
Artificial intelligence will be used to study how Prisma Health is treating patients by analyzing the collected data with no names of patients attached, O’Halla said.
AI also will be able to help care for individual patients, Pacitti said. One example: an AI system can work in the background as a doctor or other staff members examine computer images from a scan, looking to highlight areas on the image that that need more scrutiny.
The deal will include adding more modern diagnostic equipment from Siemens and making sure that the systems are deployed around the state in the most efficient way possible, O’Halla said.
For Siemens, the deal will provide direct clinical feedback on how its systems work in medical offices.
Prisma Health operates 18 hospitals, including the former Palmetto Health system in the Midlands. Headquartered in Greenville, it employs more than 30,000 staff members.
Center for Cancer Prevention and Wellness Aims to Identify, Prevent Cancer at Earliest Molecular DevelopmentPrisma Health Center aims to identify, prevent cancer... see more
As someone familiar with the devastation of a loved one’s cancer diagnosis, Steve Johnson has long been an advocate for knowing his own risks for developing the disease. So when a genetic test revealed he carried a BRCA1 gene mutation, a high indicator for breast cancer, he suggested his three daughters get tested as well. But when two of the three tested positive for the gene, and subsequent tests revealed one had developed breast cancer at a barely detectable point, knowledge of the family’s risk factors became truly life-saving.
An innovative new initiative at the Prisma Health Cancer Institute aims to help people like the Johnsons identify and manage their risk factors for cancer, examining links between lifestyle, genetics and cancer formation, with the goal of eventually preventing cancer at its earliest molecular development.