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Technology innovation drives better outcomes in pediatrics


A look at some of the technology advances at one hospital, and across the country, that are changing the way pediatric cancer patients are treated.

In February, renowned physician and healthcare entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, announced that Phoenix Children’s Hospital would lead the pediatric arm of the transformational Cancer Moonshot 2020 initiative.

NicholsonAs lead institution for the Pediatric Consortium, the hospital’s mission is to advance translation of genomic data to improve understanding of cancer biology and how that can improve treatment. Furthermore, the hospital will study how immune-based therapies can impact cure rates. Nine other children’s hospitals across the country will join this effort.

From a pediatric perspective, children’s health systems nationally and even globally are carrying the same torch: Innovation and collaboration are critical in the fight against childhood cancer and other diseases.

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the second most common cause of death among children ages 1 to 14 years old in the U.S. In 2016, an estimated 10,380 children will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,250 will die from it. Remarkable advancements in research, technology, process, methodologies and thought leadership promise to improve pediatric and adult patient outcomes.

Technology’s role

There are several ways technology advances are leading to treatment advances for pediatric patients.

Chan Soon-Shiong Children’s Precision Medicine Institute at Phoenix Children's Hospital is exploring how disease can be better treated through the use of genomic sequencing and precision medicine.

For example, through the joint venture with Soon-Shiong, Phoenix Children’s will use a comprehensive cancer population management platform to offer high throughput, complex genomic analysis to researchers across the country. A direct high speed fiber connection will allow for rapid transfer of genomic data and bioinformatics among the institutes involved.

The population management platform will collect and analyze clinical data, and actively assist in the comprehensive clinical management of patients’ lives.

After the hospital takes on cases, it will also use the platform to better understand and treat neurologic and genetic diseases.

There are also several advancements in radiology and imaging that are affecting pediatric patients.

Phoenix Children’s is the first children’s hospital to marry 3D printing and advanced post-processing technologies, allowing physicians to create accurate models of defective hearts, orthopedic fractures, injured internal organs, and even tumors. In one recent example, the technology enabled providers to measure a tumor’s exact size and identify subtle changes in shape or volume to optimize the course of treatment.

Three-dimensional printed hearts support family education and surgical planning. The hospital used 3D printing to test placement of an adult ventricular assistive device inserted in a pediatric patient’s chest cavity as a bridge to transplant. This enabled the patient to wait at home rather than extending the hospital stay, drastically improving the pretransplant quality of life.

Pediatric care on the hospital or clinic floor is improving drastically through innovation, as well. Phoenix Children’s uses a Pediatric Dose Range Checking Safety System, for example, that helps prevent medication overdose. Since its implementation in 2011, the hospital has eliminated prescription overdose errors.

Next: Broader initiatives



Broader initiatives

Where are other areas of innovation occurring? In children’s hospitals, advancements are focused on effectively coordinating care and improving quality and safety. The Children’s Hospitals Solutions for Patient Safety (SPS), a network of more than 80 children’s hospitals across the United States, shares the vision that no child should ever experience serious harm while undergoing care.

The goal of hospitals associated with SPS is to achieve zero occurrences of patient harm through:

  • 40% reduction in hospital-acquired conditions;

  • 20% reduction in readmissions; and

  • 25% reduction in serious safety events (SSEs)

Even outside of direct patient care, advancement in data analytics is allowing physicians at children’s hospitals to streamline costs, provide more effective care management and track physician benchmarks to improve quality for patients and reduce the overall cost of care.

Innovation is occurring in high-profile areas such as Cancer Moonshot 2020, but it doesn’t stop there. Equally critical to pediatric hospitals is to focus on ingenuity and invention across an organization’s infrastructure. There are no limits to the possibilities that knowledge and a willingness to question the status quo can bring to healthcare. The obstacles and challenges to pediatric and adult care now and in the future are matched only by the innovative capabilities of healthcare leadership and their talented teams.

H. Stacy Nicholson, MD, MPH, is physician in chief at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and is accountable for leadership and direction to medical specialty divisions. He also provides executive oversight to Phoenix Children’s medical education initiatives and programs, and is responsible for the strategic direction and growth of research.



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