By Rachel Witalec, VP of Product and Strategy at RapidAI
Despite incredible advancements in health technology over the last decade, many hospitals have remained hesitant to make meaningful changes to the way their emergency departments operate until COVID-19. This pandemic shed new light on the inefficiencies and pain points that have long plagued the process, and exposed the inability of legacy systems to deal with major operational challenges at a time when the stakes for triaging emergency department rooms for patients with emergent conditions got even higher.
One reason hospitals have been slower to implement innovative solutions is that there is little to no room for error. Every minute matters in the triage, diagnosis, and treatment of patients with life-threatening conditions, and it can be hard to take risks when lives are on the line. As a result, the tendency for some hospitals has been to stick with the status quo — radio calls guiding patients to the closest hospital regardless of the facility’s ability to treat them; incomplete or inaccurate patient information shared sequentially through a series of pages and phone calls making it time-consuming and error prone for teams to get a single view of patient’s state; and basic imaging solutions leaving much to interpretation and not getting sent for review for transfer candidates resulting in unnecessary or bad transfers.
Not only do patients and hospital teams deserve better, but there are also enormous operational and financial benefits for health systems that embrace this new digital age in healthcare delivery. As hospitals emerge from the pandemic and reconsider new solutions to solve age-old problems with workflow, here are six considerations for vetting and implementing new technology:
- Modernize Thoughtfully — Stepping into the emergency department should not feel like stepping back in time, however technology doesn’t need to be complex to be valuable. Evaluate technology for both promise, but also sensibility. New tools should unquestionably alleviate physician burnout, rather than contribute to it, and flash does not always correlate to utility.
For example, modest investments into tablets or smartphones can open the door to an entire ecosystem of mobile health, or mHealth, tools. Built upon everyday familiarity and convenience, and often requiring less training, today’s mobile technology can go beyond documentation and communication to support diagnostics and decision making from the palm of your hand.
- When In Doubt, Lean into Clinical — Record funding has continued to pour into healthcare and everyone from tech giants to small coding shops have taken notice. While there are countless examples of companies innovating — even disrupting— healthcare from tech roots, maintain a healthy dose of skepticism.
Whether it’s cost, data security, scalability, or another factor that is most important to your organization, never lose sight of clinical soundness. The best technologies will likely attract the best minds, so consider the medical experts involved in the product’s development, look to key opinion leaders you trust, and expect clinical validation throughout the process. Even most creative ideas may ultimately have little value in actually changing clinical care. Solutions born from clinical lenses and created by clinicians and teams who deeply understand these acute conditions know how to build technology that really can change patient care rather than burden physicians with another superfluous tech tool.
- Think End-to-End — Look for technology that shows it connects teams, rather than keeps them in silos. Many tools are only focused on one group or aspect of the complicated hospital workflow, whether it is the EMS, emergency department, or administrative teams, and tools that only modernize one team can leave others behind. The reality of acute care is that connection is absolutely critical from the beginning, so that all are brought in, and brought along, and aligned to drive the best patient outcomes from the minute the EMS is dispatched to get the patient.
- Keep Interoperability & Transparency Top of Mind — Interoperability is closely connected to value, by saving time, reducing redundancies, and supporting more actionable data. However, it’s not only crucial for solutions to integrate with your current technologies and processes, but also those you may consider down the road. Ultimately the more integrated and interoperable a solution, the more scalable it is.
Transparency is another major factor to consider when reviewing new technologies. Increasingly we are seeing more attention paid to the data and algorithms driving our healthcare systems, as it relates to privacy, biases, accuracy, and more. By doing your due-diligence and digging deeper during the vetting process, you will be better positioned in the long run to ultimately deliver the most equitable and ethical patient care.
- Bring Key Stakeholders into the Process — At the end of the day, it is the physicians, nurses, and support staff who use the technologies every day that should have the loudest say in whether it is the right fit or not. Find technology that is flexible, can adapt to the needs of your specific environment and patient population, and meets the needs of your care team — both in the clinic and beyond.
Additionally, build a team to support the education, training, implementation, and measurement of any new technology. At the end of the day, technology is only good if the team can and is using it, and it results in meaningful changes to the workflow.
- Demand Data to Measure Impact — Choose tools that give you strong and plentiful data on usage, efficiency, and outcomes to ensure you know how it’s working, what you are getting for the investment, where your team can improve, and where the technology can improve.
Using technology to fill gaps in hospital communications and workflow will be critical in reducing physician burnout and improving patient outcomes as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is possible to take a deliberate approach to modernization while still pushing the boundaries of care — and will be critical to solving the problems of tomorrow.
Rachel Witalec is the Vice President of Product and Strategy at RapidAI, a global leader in neurovascular and vascular imaging driving the next evolution of clinical decision making and patient workflow for healthcare networks. In her role overseeing RapidAI’s Product Design, Clinical Product, and Software Product Management groups in their efforts to build and scale a healthcare platform that drastically improves outcomes for patients with life-threatening conditions, Rachel plays an important role in ensuring any patient with an acute condition globally doesn’t have to rely on luck and instead can have access to the best technology available and the best possible outcome.