The COVID-19 pandemic was a major accelerant for technology adoption across Australian healthcare providers. In Zebra Technologies‘ Global Healthcare Vision Study, more than 80% of decision-makers reported that their hospitals accelerated the use of technology and are increasing investments in mobility, locationing, and automation solutions.
However, Australian hospitals are still looking for ways to further maximise staff efficiency.
The healthcare sector is vulnerable to the effects of crises ranging from epidemics to natural disasters. This places pressure on care delivery, operations, and the supply chain, leading to equipment and medication shortages, inefficiencies across the entire hospital, labour shortages, and staff burnout that can result in less than optimum levels of patient care. While the pandemic may be the most significant global public health crisis of our time, it likely will not be the last.
This is why it should be a priority to develop smarter, more connected hospital systems that facilitate the enhanced communication, agility, transparency, and resiliency needed for staff to succeed even in times of uncertainty. All clinical, non-clinical, and patient workflows need to be well-orchestrated – even automated. Healthcare supply chains, hospital supply rooms, and critical care environments must also be better managed than they are today.
The first step to this is increasing operational visibility and virtual collaboration capabilities within hospitals. So, the focus for the next year or two lies squarely on three unique but interrelated priorities: real-time intelligence, expanded clinical mobility, and improved asset monitoring and tracking.
Make asset and people locationing simple so staff can act fast to support patients
Every minute counts in a hospital environment, and staff have little time to waste. Ironically, 65% of clinicians currently feel staff spend too much time searching for medical equipment and supplies. Additionally, 52% of decision-makers admit accessing information and patient data in real time is a challenge at their hospitals.
A smarter hospital equipped with locationing and automation solutions enables staff to keep up with increased demand without compromising the quality of patient care. Understanding equipment and supplies usage patterns, for example, helps predict requirements for future scenarios. It also helps support more accurate and timely patient billing so that hospitals can recoup revenue and reinvest in further improvements.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more sophisticated, technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID) and real-time location systems (RTLS) are becoming more accessible, allowing hospitals to track the movement of staff, patients, and equipment, along with the availability of rooms and supplies. Around 75% of decision-makers surveyed in Zebra’s Study say they plan to implement locationing technologies, which can helpincrease transparency on everything from patients and their specimens to staff compliance.
When integrated with mobility solutions and other intelligence-driven technologies, hospitals can achieve an optimised information ecosystem, improving operating room and emergency room orchestration, automating patient handoffs, and freeing up staff to focus on the patient’s current needs. With greater operational visibility, front-line staff and decision-makers can also get a better handle on inventory and supply chain management, helping to safeguard against the shortages and expirations many hospitals have recently experienced.
Increasing communication and mobility
Over half of clinicians surveyed in Zebra’s Study agreed that communications within hospitals is a top operational challenge. This calls for the deployment of powerful devices that can connect care team members stationed across the facility or in the field in ambulances who need to share and receive information.
Fortunately, hospital mobility priorities have evolved as much as they have expanded in the last four years. In 2017, healthcare leaders were primarily giving mobile devices to hospital staff who frequently needed to access electronic health records (EHR) and coordinate patient care, such as bedside nurses, doctors, and lab and radiology technicians. Today, the priority in hospitals is to give all clinicians, especially those providing urgent and critical care, the tools they need to better execute time-sensitive tasks and manage patient surges.
They also recognize the need for whole-hospitality connectivity. At least seven in 10 executives say they plan to extend mobile device implementations to nearly every department in the next year, including IT, housekeeping, patient transport, supply chain/inventory management and food services.
Mobile devices purpose-built for healthcare give clinical and non-clinical staff the functionality they need to tackle the task at hand without compromising on cybersecurity or patient privacy.
Introducing virtual collaboration
Hospital decision-makers are exploring ways to make operations more predictive, rather than reactive, and are looking to artificial intelligence (AI), prescriptive analytics, and other advanced technologies for help.
AI-powered devices can empower staff to remotely monitor and react to patients by checking and reporting vitals regularly. If something is wrong, these devices can send alerts to clinicians’ mobile devices. They are also beneficial from a safety perspective, as they can help limit the number of times clinical staff must enter infectious patients’ rooms.
Predictive operations also make it easier to improve workflow management, by helping decision-makers or automated systems assign the right tasks to the right people at the right time.
If thoughtfully selected and implemented, technology solutions can make hospital operations more straightforward and intuitive. With smarter, more connected systems in place, nurses, doctors, and non-clinical staff on the front lines will have the intelligence and resources they need to consistently deliver quality patient care without compromising their own well-being.
To learn more about the technology strategies and solutions that can help hospitals become more intelligent, automated, agile, and resilient, click here.