Hospitals are complex ecosystems with hundreds of clinical and business processes. In this guest post, Brendan Ziolo, head of large enterprise strategy at an IP networking, ultra-broadband access and cloud technology company, gives hospital executives a glimpse at how digitization and automation of processes are key to streamlining workflows to enable providers to spend less time on non-care related tasks and more time on patients.
Patient care teams handle multiple patients and care management tasks. The result is a multifaceted web of workflows that can be prone to decision bottlenecks or missed/delayed tasks that can impact patient safety and care quality.
If properly integrated and automated, these processes have the potential to seamlessly unite patients, doctors, staff, assets and information throughout the hospital.
But, it’s not just about adopting new technology; hospitals must have a clear digital strategy across their entire organization and IT infrastructure. To become a digital hospital, processes must be streamlined and reengineered to create paperless automated digital workflows.
Many functions within hospitals are already on their way to becoming digital. For example, electronic health records (EHRs) are being widely implemented to help track patient health data and support medical decisions. Digital medical imaging systems are quickening the process of reviewing medical images by physicians and other healthcare professionals.
Hospitals are extending workflow through mobile health (mHealth) initiatives, which enable physicians and patients to use mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to record and find the right information and resources anytime from any location. In fact, according to the 2014 HIMSS Analytics Mobile Devices Study, more than half of U.S. hospitals are using smartphones and/or tablets and 69% of clinicians are using both a desktop/laptop and a smartphone/tablet to access information.
In addition, hospitals are eliminating distance barriers with telemedicine through the use of network and communication technologies to provide broader access to standard or specialized care, regardless of location. Other functions and processes that are being digitized and automated include delivery robots that can handle a number of fetch-and-deliver tasks, and real-time location systems (RTLS) are used to locate equipment, patients and staff.
Duplication of processes
Progress is being made, yet most digital information and processes in hospitals reside in disparate systems or devices that must be interconnected and integrated to truly improve workflow and quality care. Duplication of information and processes must be avoided to eliminate unintended consequences.
Often you can find staff doing double data entry or pulling information from different systems, and jumping through hoops to pull together the knowledge required for the best patient care. There are many tasks throughout the hospital that staff spend time on every day just to get their jobs done. The goal in a digital hospital is to automate as many of these tasks as possible to improve staff efficiency, information accuracy and overall cost savings.
By standardizing procedures and breaking down processes into their component parts, digitizing, connecting and analyzing them, hospitals can realize unprecedented efficiency. Once processes are well understood, technology solutions can be leveraged to streamline these processes and integrate disparate elements. Essential to this integration is the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure that interconnects all aspects of care delivery and hospital administration.
The big picture
The use of mobile, cloud and new communication technologies can create a platform that can capture data from disparate sources, such as EHRs, wearables, clinical information systems, mobile devices and more.
Pull it all together and a caregiver is given a holistic and real-time view of a patient’s health on any device that is accessible to the patient, or other specialists as needed, for the best ongoing care.
This is just one view of how a digital workflow could look and the impact it might have on both the patient and provider. But it’s clear that the only way healthcare providers can meet the growing expectations of the healthcare consumer is with a streamlined, digital workflow that not only improves care but still meets critical compliance and security regulations.
Brendan Ziolo is head of large enterprise strategy at Alcatel-Lucent, an IP networking and cloud technology company. He has almost 20 years of security and technology industry experience.