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An HIT Moment With … Brandon Palermo, MD

February 17, 2017 Interviews No Comments

An HIT Moment with … is a quick interview with someone we find interesting. Brandon Palermo, MD, MPH is executive director and chief medical officer, Healthcare Services and Solutions (HSS), Merck & Co. Ilum Health Solutions, which was launched this week, offers a technology-powered program that helps hospitals improve their infectious disease outcomes and supports antimicrobial stewardship programs.

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What was Merck’s vision in creating Ilum Health Solutions?

Recognizing the critical role digital health can and should play in the fight against infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance, we saw an opportunity to leverage Merck’s expertise and resources to create an innovative solution that truly addresses the needs of patients and hospital customers. And, we wanted to do it with the same evidence-based approach and rigor that Merck applies to all areas of innovation.

So, we created Ilum Health Solutions, which provides an array of tools and services to help hospitals and health systems improve outcomes for conditions like sepsis and pneumonia, and implement key components of their antimicrobial stewardship initiatives. As quality standards from CMS and The Joint Commission continue to evolve in the area of infectious diseases, Ilum is focused on partnering with health systems to help meet and exceed their quality goals.

Ilum is part of Merck’s Healthcare Services & Solutions group and operates independently from Merck’s pharmaceutical products business.

How important is early recognition and evidence-based treatment of sepsis in hospitals?

Very important. Sepsis results in 750,000 deaths in the United States every year and is a major cost driver in health systems.

We know that following evidence-based pathways for sepsis can save lives, but it’s not that simple. These pathways call for interventions where time is critical, and early recognition of sepsis is a challenge that continues to vex health systems. I can tell you from my own experience as a practicing physician that this can be a huge hurdle.

We’ve already seen where our technology can move the needle. Preliminary results of a pilot study at East Jefferson General Hospital, which we presented last December at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Annual Forum, showed that our CDS product helped clinicians improve sepsis recognition and adherence to evidence-based care, leading to significantly improved outcomes and reduced resource utilization.

What is the best use of technology in supporting the responsible use of antibiotics?

Technology needs to give us antibiotic foresight, not just hindsight. A root cause of antibiotic resistance is the systemic overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics. While many factors account for this, a key issue is the lack of timely clinical information at the point of care.

Many stewardship programs in hospitals today only provide feedback on antibiotic prescriptions one or more days after the patient has already been started on an antibiotic. But it’s important to use technology to engage and guide clinicians in real time from the beginning when an antibiotic is ordered and to continue tracking pathway adherence as additional microbiology data become available. And it’s important to be able to support this within their existing workflows.

Technology also needs to effectively connect everyone on the stewardship team – doctors, nurses, quality managers, pharmacists, and healthcare executives.

What technologies does the company offer and what integration with existing systems is required?

Hospitals and clinicians need help accessing important data that are often buried within complex EMRs. In addition to the CDS product I mentioned, we also have a Command Center, which is an intuitive data dashboard. Together, these tools help promote early recognition of infectious diseases, adherence to evidence-based clinical pathways and initiation of appropriate interventions. They enable case monitoring and prioritization on both an individual and aggregate level and they provide automated outcomes reporting configured to hospital-specific initiatives to track program performance and impact.

Our collaborations with partner hospitals launch with two parallel tracks — benchmarking and integration. We assist with benchmarking to establish baselines and identify quality goals for improvement. During this time, we integrate to existing data feeds – ADT, lab results, orders, and med admin feeds – which are widely available in most health systems. The addition of our CDS solution can then leverage the integration work already completed, ensuring a simplified upgrade process. So Ilum can help hospitals identify and target areas for quality improvement. For example, antibiotic prescribing variability and C. diff rates, and provide tools to help achieve the desired outcomes.

What will the company’s focus be for the next five years?

Our plan is to build out disease modules for various types of infections using a value- and data-driven approach. We plan to expand to hospitals and health systems across the country and continue to bring key industry players together.

We have to keep generating evidence to show the value of what we’re doing. We can’t just say it works. We have to continue to show it works.

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