This is the second part of the article: 5 Ways to Use Operational Data for Visibility into Healthcare Outcomes. Part I can be found here.
4. Staff Workflow
By monitoring the paths doctors and nurses take to move through the hospital, healthcare organizations can design new workflow patterns to reduce unnecessary steps, boost job performance and satisfaction, and improve overall patient interaction with staff. Data from the locating system are used to train staff members in the most effective routes through a facility and to help existing staff eliminate time-consuming or inefficient practices. By showing nurses diagrams of their daily routes through the hospital, they can better visualize the most effective paths to take and when to stop by supply or administrative areas, adding these stops to their routines rather than taking extra trips.
Tracking staff workflow can also reveal useful information about the patients in their care. The amount of time required for each patient is usually estimated based on the procedure or medical condition, but hospitals are discovering that demographic factors such as age, marital status, race, etc., are just as important. Some patients require more contact time than others to feel that their needs have been seen to. By examining where nurses and other staff members spend their time, administrators are able to adjust schedules to incorporate additional time or better tailor their care for each patient.
4. Asset Tracking and Management
Reducing costs while still providing quality care is an ongoing challenge for the healthcare industry. One prominent place that hospitals look for efficiencies is in equipment purchases and rentals. Mobile equipment, in particular – infusion pumps, telemetry units, specialty beds, etc. – is very difficult to manage and prone to shortages since these items are on the move all the time. Many studies have shown that utilization rates are low and loss rates high for mobile medical equipment, which often leads clinical staff to compensate by hoarding or even hiding equipment, further compounding the problem.
A real-time asset-management solution breaks this negative cycle by giving clinical and biomed staff alike visibility to the location and status of these assets. Clinicians know that they can quickly locate any asset in a matter of minutes – and even see its status – and biomed staff can manage the entire fleet more effectively to reduce unnecessary purchases, perform maintenance more efficiently, and ultimately establish a par-level system that pre-positions equipment based on expected need.
A number of hospitals and other healthcare organizations have already demonstrated the benefits of integrating data from advanced tracking and analytics technologies into their operations. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, it is essential that these and other groups explore and leverage the wealth of information being made available to them, and apply the insights gained to develop greater visibility and new advantages for both patients and staff.
Most hospitals begin their adoption of real-time location technology with a specific use case, often in a trial environment. As an example, a “big bang” approach to adopting RTLS asset management is very challenging; there are just too many assets to contend with. A better approach is to start gradually with an asset class – telemetry units, say, or a new fleet of infusion pumps – to prove the concept to staff and the ROI to management. Then the solution can be systematically expanded and related use cases added. Many health systems have moved in this way from a pilot to a system-wide deployment of multiple solutions.
The key first step is to clearly define your goals and build the conditions for success by involving all key stakeholders right from the beginning. Real-time visibility usually involves a culture change, requiring people to give up deeply ingrained habits (like hoarding equipment). To take the asset-management example again, the current pain points of biomed, clinical users, and other groups have to be understood. Those groups have to be educated on the why and how of the solution. For this, an experienced vendor with a long-term perspective is very valuable; it may all be new to you, but the vendor has seen it before and can help you develop the best practices for your organization.
The topic introduced in this article is of importance to the digital health industry, since hospitals and health systems are facing the challenge of operating more efficiently as they respond to changing funding models and increased patient loads. This is spurring a lot of innovation and the adoption of new technologies to streamline processes and empower caregivers with actionable information. Access to real-time information on the status of patients, staff, and assets allows hospitals to not only react quickly in time-sensitive situations, but also to better understand complex operations and ultimately develop predictive analytics to help improve those processes and the level of care being provided.
Steve Elder, senior marketing manager at STANLEY Healthcare