Healthcare News & Insights

5 challenges hospitals need to tackle in 2014 and beyond

Moving into 2014, hospitals must overcome many challenges if they wish to thrive. And they all aren’t related to new healthcare reform mandates. 

In a recent blog post, Dr. Suneel Dhand, a Boston-area hospitalist, author and teacher, discussed five of the most pressing challenges hospitals will continue to face down the line. Most of these concerns are perennial issues for hospitals.

But regardless of a facility’s size or specialty, Dr. Dhand said that all hospital leaders must address them ASAP to maintain high quality care. They are:

  1. Medication reconciliation. Errors concerning a patient’s proper medication are still widespread and have the potential to cause significant harm. It can be difficult to obtain an accurate list of the medications patients are currently taking, especially when they’re often given new prescriptions in the hospital. Dr. Dhand suggests that hospitals remedy this by increasing the number of pharmacists on staff. Pharmacists can best determine what medicines a patient’s taking and can quickly discover if any new prescriptions would cause harmful side effects. This would be especially helpful in the ER, where this info is needed quickly in many cases.
  2. Dealing with patients’ most basic complaints. Instead of focusing so much on complicated methods to boost patient satisfaction, Dr. Dhand says hospitals should get back to the essentials. The issues he most often hears patients complain about aren’t much different than they’ve always been: Not being able to get a good night’s rest, terrible hospital food and not enough time with the doctor. Focus on solving these problems to make your patients happier.
  3. Poor IT systems. Hospitals have been steadily upgrading their technology to comply with federal mandates. But many of the “upgrades” actually slow the process of delivering patient care. According to Dr. Dhand, certain programs, like computerized physician order entry, keep providers tied to a keyboard instead of working with their patients. To be more efficient in the future, hospitals need to focus on intuitive technology that also engages the patient, including the use of tablets and other mobile devices.
  4. Standardizing rounds. One aspect of the hospital experience that makes patient recovery more difficult is the random nature of doctors’ rounds. Patients can be seen at any point during the day, and doctors usually don’t communicate with nurses beforehand.  So they may not know exactly what a patient needs. To streamline this process and improve communication, Dr. Dhand says hospitals need to switch to a multidisciplinary rounding model. Here, all members of the care team go on rounds together at set times. This makes it easier to coordinate patient care without missing anything crucial.
  5. Discharge. Hospitals must take steps to improve the discharge process. Dr. Dhand says post-discharge instructions need to be made crystal clear to patients and their families, and medications need to be checked and double-checked for potential interactions (which is where those extra pharmacists come in). Having a discharge coordinator on staff can make the process smoother, but hospitals can also provide patients with clear literature that spells out exactly what they should do when recovering at home.

Some of these interventions may seem daunting and pricey. But as Dr. Dhand put it, “imagine the money (and lives) saved by reducing medical errors” and other complications, and the effort becomes worthwhile.

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