In March 2019, Fresenius Medical Care established the Global Medical Office to enhance the Company’s activities in the area of patient-focused care. This global function marks an important milestone on the path to transforming health care worldwide based on our vertically integrated business model.
Whenever Len Usvyat visits a dialysis clinic, he does not just see patients and clinic staff, he also sees data. The specific sounds of the dialysis ward, a patient’s latest blood count – almost every aspect of everyday clinic life can be converted into numeric fingerprints, as the qualified economist and Vice President of Applied Advanced Analytics at Fresenius Medical Care explains. He has turned the evaluation of data into his mission: to use the universal language of numbers to improve treatment for people with kidney disease. “I am enamored by the fact that behind every dataset is a patient with her or his own feelings and emotions, whose conditions we can positively impact,” says Usvyat.
We search for patterns in our data that we can translate into useful and practicable insights for medical staff.
Usvyat becomes almost elated when he talks about the many ways these medical data can be applied: “In the future, we will be able to treat kidney disease even more efficiently, individually, and precisely,” he says with confidence.
“We will see the emergence of smart treatments tailored to patients’ individual needs and characteristics,” he adds. “It will be possible to develop customized treatments using not only existing data from clinical examinations, but also valuable real-time information from fitness trackers, dialysis machines, as well as other devices.”
Even today, Usvyat’s team routinely analyzes hundreds of data points to predict which patients are likely to need hospital treatment and which have a heightened risk of infection. Avoiding these events leads to an improvement in therapeutic outcomes and quality of life for patients, which is also beneficial for health care systems.
Fresenius Medical Care operates more than 3,990 dialysis clinics in around 50 countries. As the market leader, the Company manufactures one in every two dialysis machines worldwide. “Kidney disease is a global epidemic that is placing a burden on health care systems around the world,” explains Maddux. “As a vertically integrated, globally active health care company, Fresenius Medical Care is ideally positioned to leverage and further develop the opportunities offered by interconnected data and innovative solutions worldwide.”
The GMO team regularly publishes its key findings. In 2019, it also developed the first global framework that sets priorities for improving the quality and safety of patient care across regions. This constitutes a further step towards harmonizing and enhancing the quality of care worldwide for people with kidney disease in the long term.
However, global cooperation in the form of the GMO also presents challenges. “We have to work with widely diverse health care systems around the world,” says Usvyat.
In addition, Usvyat is repeatedly confronted with controversial issues in the course of his work – such as the question whether computers will ever replace physicians and nurses. “Certainly not,” asserts the data specialist. “We will always need human expertise to ensure that the computer’s calculations make sense and are interpreted correctly.” Even back when his team was developing its mathematical models, they worked in close cooperation with physicians and clinic staff in order to better understand their needs. “We want to help them and give them a tool that allows them to do their job even better than before,” says Usvyat.
Usvyat believes that algorithms will become an increasingly natural part of health care in the future, and that we will gradually get used to that. But even he sees limits when it comes to the use of computer forecasts in everyday clinic life – like mortality calculations or correlations relating to gender or skin color, for example. “We need to be extremely cautious and sensitive when dealing with ethically relevant issues like these,” says Usvyat. “But one thing is certain: If we use the new tools judiciously, we can improve our patients’ quality of life with lasting effect.”