The future of care delivery is closer than we think
The right ‘dose’ of technology can support clinical staffs and keep them from leaving the field altogether.
Digitization is more than a buzzword these days. A 2022 symplr Compass Survey and Report, based on interviews with the country’s 132 top decision makers at leading health systems, found that 84 percent of respondents agree that a streamlined IT infrastructure is an important factor in their ability to retain clinicians.
“The health and well-being of all clinical staff, in particular the nursing staff, is central to ensuring safe, timely, patient-centered, and equitable care,” said Deb Zimmerman, CEO of The DAISY Foundation.
With a national hospital turnover rate of 25.9 percent, retention is paramount. Hospital leaders, particularly in the C-suite, are left to determine how to best optimize their current technology investments to meet the needs of patients, and equally important — their waning staff.
This begs the questions: If technology is the future for healthcare delivery, how do we use it in a way that supports our clinical staff and keeps them from leaving the field altogether? Furthermore, how can providers better understand the technology trends and become more proactive in strategic planning?
Observation 1: Less Is More
According to the symplr report, about 60 percent of health systems and hospitals use 50 to 500 software solutions for healthcare operations. When considering the future of care delivery and IT optimization, we have to take a step back and consider what makes the most sense for both the person providing care and the person receiving care. An excess of technology and equipment in the patient’s room clutters the physical environment and detracts from the level of care that a nurse is able to provide. In the hospital room of the future, less is more. What does that really mean?
To start, eliminate the old-school “whiteboard.” Gone are the days of having to manually use a dry erase marker to update the patient’s status. Hospital rooms of the future are already here, as they enable seamless integration of digital whiteboards, tablets and signage with the EMR. This provides an element of personalization for each patient based on unique clinical details and adds a special touch that can greatly enhance the overall experience.
Furthermore, clinicians today have a unique opportunity to test drive the “less is more” approach when it comes to technology and workflow optimization. Innovation centers, which have emerged at many of the country’s major hospitals such as Tampa General Hospital and Novant Health, enable clinicians to pilot new programs and services — essentially a “try before you buy” approach. These centers capitalize on less is more, and they increase pressure on vendors to meet the needs of today’s clinicians with integrated workflows and ease of use.
Observation 2: Mind the Gap
As the research above indicates, gaps in technology workflow impact almost every area of the healthcare system. That’s why it is increasingly important for caregivers to recognize these gaps and eliminate inefficiencies at the source.
Take the EMR, for example. Not only do these applications cost hospitals billions each year, but they also create a time drag for caregivers. Studies have shown that EMRs take nurses away from their patients, with 20 percent to 40 percent of visits dedicated to the EMR platform.
The industry has to consider the inefficiencies created when technology exists in a silo. And, we have to look at the ramifications when technology is lacking. Nurses are a prime example. They are often tasked with myriad requests throughout their shifts — everything from fetching a blanket to adjusting the temperature in the room. While these tasks are important, they do not require the attention of a nurse. Rather, technology can be used to alert nonclinical staff of these requests, enabling clinicians to practice at the top of their license.
Observation 3: Compassion Is the Only Way
The final observation is arguably the most pertinent — the important role that compassion plays in the future of care delivery. No matter how much innovation we see with technology, may we not forget the important role of humanity when interacting with patients, providers, and caregivers.
One of the ways we see technology taking an empathic approach to care delivery is through access to personalized education. While TVs in the patient room will always serve as a means for entertainment and/or distraction, they can also be a vital clinical tool. Gone are the looseleaf pamphlets that are lost soon after leaving the hospital. In their place, nurses can assign tailored educational videos based on treatment stage or diagnosis directly to the patient’s TV via the EMR. Patient comprehension can be assessed using a brief survey on the TV, and documentation can be automated back into the EMR instantly. This seamless, yet highly personalized approach, serves to prepare patients and their caregivers more effectively for discharge.
A nuanced but vital area where compassion can come into play through technology is in Labor and Delivery. New mothers are often inundated with TLC in the days leading up to and immediately after giving birth. However, in the 30 days or more after discharge, the symptoms of stress, anxiety and postpartum depression often creep in, leaving a void that new moms didn’t expect to fill on their own. There is a great opportunity for technology to fill that gap, whether for virtual counseling visits or post-discharge reminders to schedule a follow-up conversation with the OB to nail down a postpartum care strategy.
The future of healthcare delivery isn’t a short straight line, but there is much to glean from recent advancements. With new developments coming daily, it is our responsibility to consider the technology we have at our disposal and continually evaluate and optimize it to best meet the needs of our patients, staff and caregivers.
Jeff Fallon is chairman and CEO of Vibe Health