Automating the Outpatient Experience with RTLS Technology

Updated on October 16, 2018

ari copyBy Ari Naim

A new Moody’s Investor Service report predicts the healthcare industry of the future will rely heavily on outpatient care – a shift that underpins the evolving standards of care needed in both traditional hospitals and outpatient facilities.

The report explains that traditional hospital bed space will be dedicated strictly to chronically ill, high-need patients. As such, the demand for outpatient services will increase exponentially, as it will be utilized for less severe health issues that arise more frequently. This forecasted transformation is a response to the growing dilemma of nursing and physician shortages. By approaching outpatient services with this end goal in mind, there are investments to be made that could potentially deliver greater efficiencies at a lower cost, while also improving access to physicians.

In order to create an outpatient care experience that meets this growing demand and improves care quality, it’s critical that the healthcare industry adopt even more technological solutions that help to facilitate the entire process.

Digitization of healthcare services has already proven itself necessary for better-managed care, improved revenue and an increased ability to meet patient needs. Technology is crucial to gathering accurate data and producing the insights necessary to successfully address a patient’s health issue. Within outpatient care, automated technologies can improve patient flow, reduce communication errors, decrease staff burnout and enrich the patient experience. One such technology has been proven in traditional healthcare institutions for years, and is now being implemented within outpatient clinics to help address the growing demand.

Real-Time Location System (RTLS) technologies are shaping the future of outpatient facilities through clinical workflow automation and better-coordinated care.

Active RTLS provides facilities with real-time, actionable data on the whereabouts of physicians, staff, patients and assets. This helps providers identify process bottlenecks and make informed decisions to automate processes that will improve care quality and overall patient experience.

RTLS can be used to record metrics such as patient location, which serve to quickly alert physicians and staff when an exam room becomes available or when a patient is waiting to be seen. The technology’s ability to track and alert providers in real time can significantly reduce the amount of time a patient spends in waiting or exam rooms. This could provide outpatient facilities with an important service from both a patient approval and revenue perspective. For many patients, visiting the doctor’s office can be stressful, and waiting hours for a physician only adds to their anxiety. Therefore, reducing wait times enhances patient satisfaction, increases patient and provider contact time and allocates staff resources more effectively.

In addition to gathering location data on patients for the sake of improving clinical workflow and lessening patient wait times, RTLS technology affords the capability to integrate location data with an outpatient facility’s existing EMR systems and patient flow applications.

This maximizes employee productivity by automating tasks such as patient check in, patient rooming and documenting provider time spent with patients in the EMR system, and subsequently, gives physicians and staff complete visibility into patient history. More than current location, RTLS can provide details on past visits, and patient history.

This provides physicians with the information necessary to pinpoint a patient’s exact location and history – in or out of the exam room, identifying patterns in exam room occupancy, or how much time patients spend in each room and how much of that time is spent with staff, creates new opportunities to reassign underutilized rooms and reallocate space to accommodate patient capacity.

Implementing RTLS technologies does not carry the singular benefit of automating simple, day-to-day tasks. Rather, the technology serves as a crucial tool with actionable data to facilitate a complete operational overhaul. Staff and physicians are able to manage patient flow by visualizing current patient location and duration, monitoring the status of patient visits and expediting patient room assignments and room turnover.

By properly utilizing this data, healthcare facilities can discover where holdups occur and make improvements to their workflow and processes through the automation of events and the ability to make adjustments in real time – and thus deliver upon promises of quality care by investing in technologies that maximize patient time and enhance their experience.

Outpatient services of the future must implement technology to deliver more effective care to their patients. Monitoring and documenting every aspect of a patient’s experience provides physicians with a significant amount of data that enables better-informed decisions catered to patient time, needs and preferences. Improved patient satisfaction not only creates a better patient-provider relationship, but also maximizes a facility’s bottom line.   

Dr. Ari Naim is CEO of CenTrak. He holds advanced degrees in electrical and computer engineering from Drexel University. He is an expert in all aspects of complex electronic product design and high volume Far East production. He helped design, develop and launch over 30 successful consumer electronic products for leading OEMs. Dr. Naim is the recipient of the prestigious IEEE Outstanding Chapter Award for his valued services and contributions as Chairman of the IEEE Philadelphia Section from 1990 to 1996. Dr. Naim has authored numerous patents.

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