Expectations at all levels of healthcare are rapidly changing. Today, clinicians and patients alike want hospitals that enable productivity throughout the organization, from moving patients efficiently through treatment and exams to making visits easy by using tools like wayfinding. It’s essential for delivering effective patient care as well as running a profitable organization. As a result, a completely new class of technology is emerging, focused on making the hospital as an organization more productive – as well as optimizing performance throughout different employee classes, from doctors to CNAs. At the recent HIMSS conference, a number of new productivity technologies were introduced that are changing the way hospitals operate and increasing both the speed and quality of their service. Here’s a closer look at some of the latest innovations and strategies to help hospitals think through productivity-related technology investments.
From Provider-Centered Technology to Patient-Centered Care
One of the biggest shifts occurring in the healthcare space is a shift from provider-oriented technology to patient-centered care. In the past, innovations in healthcare technology have focused on making doctors, nurses and their staffs more effective. However, the latest evolution in technology has focused on developing technologies to make the patient experience more pleasant and empower patients to manage some of the more routine aspects of their hospital stay. On the surface, this may seem primarily driven by an exclusive focus on the patient experience, but it also has important implications for staff productivity.
Hospitals are experimenting with technology that improves the hospital room experience, such as using tablets to control lighting and temperature, playing music or white noise, and providing WiFi. In other cases, wayfinding systems – digital tools that make it easier to navigate hospital campuses, by using downloadable apps – make it easier for first-time visitors to find their way around. Vendors on the HIMSS floor were showcasing holographic wayfinding solutions that used an interactive touch screen in partnership with a holographic projection of a person. When a patient approaches the screen, motion sensors signal a holograph to greet them. Through artificial intelligence, the holograph helps answer the patient’s questions. The availability of these tools significantly increases productivity. When patients are empowered to manage their own experience, there’s less time needed for nurses and other staff to respond to routine requests and more time to focus on profitable patient care.
Diagnostics Go High-Tech
Another emerging trend is incorporating more technology into the diagnostic process. For example, developing technology that debuted at HIMSS uses advanced imaging devices, allowing imaging – such as a CT scan of a brain – to be projected onto a patient’s body. This advancement can help streamline the doctor’s diagnostic process and integrate patient education into the same conversation. Another tool integrates this imaging and diagnostic information into a set of augmented reality glasses. Doctors can wear these glasses during a procedure and simply glance up at any time to access the latest diagnostic information.
Similarly, hospitals are using continuous monitors to track heart rate, blood sugar and other health indicators. Through a wireless signal, this information is sent to nurses’ data dashboards or diagnostic software that looks for patterns in the data. Technology is providing better access to real-time data to guide patient care, diagnosis and even emergency interventions. Diagnostics and clinical support tools provide faster access to clinical staff during procedures, enabling doctors and nurses to spend less time hunting for information and more quickly provide comprehensive service to patients – dramatically increasing overall productivity.
Interoperability Comes to the Forefront
With the growing prevalence of electronic health records (EHR), hospitals are able to digitally gather and share patient information. Whether it’s sharing a health record within hospital departments or sending files between locations, fast and secure file sharing is a critical part of minimizing delays and delivering the latest information to healthcare professionals.
A challenge many hospitals are dealing with is interoperability – the ability to seamlessly share files and information. Currently, there’s no single unified system that organizations use to transfer files. Hospitals are looking at systems and tools that have a high degree of compatibility, such as universal file formats that preserve security and information across a wider range of systems. As interoperability challenges are reduced, hospital staff can spend more time delivering quality patient care and less time searching for files. A number of new systems that were showcased at HIMSS focused on making patient information centrally available. One system showed a model of a patient’s anatomy and allowed a clinician to simply click on a part of the body, such as the heart, and see any related patient information in a single screen. Other systems, such as one geared toward radiologists, are overcoming the problem of information being stored in divergent systems by working to get those systems together.
Better Communication and Patient Flow Management Systems
Communication and collaboration tools are also making it easier for medical teams to provide wraparound care in the most complex cases. Doctors and nurses use tablet-based applications to access patients’ latest diagnostic details, treatment plans and test results all in a single interface. They upload notes in real time, which can immediately be accessed by other specialists working on the case. Team instant-messaging capabilities could be implemented to reduce delays and pass off information as shifts end. Team microsites could allow specific groups such as cardiology or pediatrics to access the latest forms and policies and receive second opinions on cases.
Another area where hospitals are investing to improve productivity is in patient-flow management. The Zebra system uses wristbands that communicate with beacons available to staff via a sensor. Staff can instantly access information about where a patient is on the hospital campus, how long specific patients have been waiting, and whether certain critical patients – like those in care for a time-sensitive heart condition – are still within their safe zone. Automatically having access to this information helps immediately prioritize the most important cases and keeps things moving in hospitals.
HIMSS also identified a new class of technologies that go one step beyond reporting and electronic health records. Using big data analytics and predictive capabilities, new technology suites are helping managers identify productivity roadblocks, look at department performance and identify ways to support optimum productivity by implementing tools. When hospital administrators have access to comprehensive productivity data, it’s possible to make data-driven decisions about where it’s best to invest.
Today, healthcare IT is one of the richest areas of innovation. New tools are changing the overall patient experience by helping practitioners improve the quality of care while getting more accomplished in less time. As a result, hospitals are preventing bottlenecks in processes, delivering better outcomes and empowering their teams to continue this productivity.