By Jeff Fallon, eVideon CEO
Do you know where your checkbook is?
How about the spiral bound atlas that used to reside in the seat pocket of your car?
Over the past ten to twenty years our lives have gone completely digital. The consumer experience has been simplified by the snap of a QR code or download of an app on your personal device. Healthcare, however, continues to lag behind other industries in this regard. Many patients and families still find themselves rifling through an old, tattered booklet on their medical condition, or reviewing a paper menu before ordering their nightly dinner.
The impact of this digital hesitation in healthcare is hard to ignore when you start to look at clinical workflows and our overstressed workforce of clinicians. According to the 2021 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report, since 2016 the average hospital has turned over about90%of its workforce—an alarming 83% was RN staff. In 2020, the turnover rate for staff RNs was at 18.7%, a 2.8 percentage point increase from 2019. The shortage means hospitals are facing between $3.6 – $6.5 million per year in turnover costs. While the stress of the pandemic forced many out of the field, the manual and even antiquated processes that exist today are impacting staff satisfaction and retention.
Imagine being a clinician on a Covid unit and you’ve put on your personal protective equipment (PPE) to enter the patient room. You head towards the dry erase whiteboard to update the daily care plan, only to realize that the markers don’t work. Having a clinician spend their time chasing down dry-erase markers is not the best use of your most valuable resources.
Now imagine being a patient educator and creating a thoughtfully designed patient handbook. The hospital prints hundreds of copies in English, Spanish and Chinese; your data analytics platform has identified these three languages as the most prevalent amongst your patient population. But a Russian-speaking patient and their family just arrived in your Cardiology unit. Or, your hospital leadership announces a rebranding initiative that requires fresh new imagery and logos. Suddenly, those well designed (and expensive) patient handbooks are heading to the nearest recycling bin.
Now, we have seen EMRs and EHRs give rise to digital transformation. While many in the industry might balk and dismiss the term “digital transformation” as an overused buzzword, there’s no denying that EMR/EHR adoption has forever changed the way clinicians and healthcare staff do their jobs. But electronic records are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more that hospitals can do to digitize manual tasks, create efficiencies, and get more value out of their most significant IT investment–the EMR.
Think about all the manual processes that exist in a patient room. People are constantly in and out, checking vitals and bringing items to the patient such as food, drinks, educational materials, medication and more. All of those activities require labor hours. Nurses spend time updating whiteboards, answering non-clinical questions, and even helping patients with their TV, bed controls, temperature controls, etc. At home, patients are used to being more in control–they can control their own thermostat, grab their own snacks or drinks from the fridge, and most know how to operate their home TVs. Inside the hospital, everything changes. Hospitals can be a scary and uncomfortable place, lacking the comforts of home that we become accustomed to. The result: care teams take on the responsibility to fulfill both clinical and non-clinical requests.
When hospitals automate non-clinical service requests, they alleviate the burden on the care team and empower patients with self-service. Furthermore, if they integrate those tools with the EMR, they can create a personalized environment for the patient – using digital workflows to greet patients by their preferred name, in their preferred language, while also providing educational content and entertainment that is tailored to them based on information in their record. Optimizing the electronic record enables hospitals to deliver best-in-class service to patients and their loved ones.
When hospitals realize the potential that exists when you transform the patient room into an engaging, self-service environment, it becomes a game changer for the clinical team. It’s even possible to create spaces that adapt and support care teams situationally. For example, with the right workflow triggers and integrated technologies, in a code blue event, a smart patient room can automatically lower the temperature and pull the most important information from the EMR to display it on the patient’s TV without any manual intervention from the care team. It can also display a highly visible, attention-grabbing message on the digital door sign outside the patient room so care teams can receive prompt instruction. The whole team has instant visibility into what’s going on with the patient, and the environment adapts to allow the care team to focus on saving the patient.
Healthcare innovation happens when we challenge ourselves to think about ways to replace manual processes. If we digitize patient requests and workflows the way we’ve digitized records, we can shift a significant amount of that burden away from the care team and empower patients with a more customized and easily controlled environment. Think of the reasons people enter patient rooms. A few small changes can make a significant impact on patient and care team satisfaction, allowing hospitals to retain high performing staff and keep clinical teams operating at top of license.