Care delivery best practices are constantly changing to optimize efficiency and safety, and look considerably different compared to just a decade ago. The digital healthcare transformation has ushered in promising opportunities to use technology to improve nurse and clinician workflows, monitor patients remotely, and provide secure paths for communication between care team members.
Healthcare is constantly evolving, and healthcare IT in particular is undergoing more change now than at any other point in history. Health systems trying to ‘ride the wave’ of change may often feel like they are implementing updates, only to face a new regulation, technology, or best suggested practice that shakes up the process yet again. While it is challenging to stay current, health systems looking to stay relevant need to constantly re-evaluate their processes and whether they are as efficient as possible. While these organizations can’t always predict what comes next, the triple aim of reducing costs, improving outcomes, and enhancing patient satisfaction, provides a solid framework for thinking ahead.
So how do you know where you are on the healthcare wave?
As the chief innovation officer of Carle Foundation Hospital, my primary responsibility is to find the best cutting-edge technology to help alleviate our physicians’ biggest pain points. This can seem like a daunting task considering the sheer quantity of technologies being produced by innovative vendors to improve the healthcare industry. I often get asked to define the ‘magic’ behind making the right decision. Ultimately, you simply have to start somewhere. With the trust of leadership and the direct involvement of our system’s physicians, I’ve determined my own process to cut through the noise and find success.
Several different ‘flavors’ of telehealth have developed over the years, with varying degrees of popularity and adoption. Some hospitals have telehealth systems in an emergency room, allowing ER physicians to communicate directly with physicians at another site. Other hospitals have specialty physicians who leverage telehealth visits from one health facility to another.
Telehealth equipment is generally known to be costly and limited. Traditionally, telehealth tools were permanently located in one room and only accessible when that room was available – very similar to the advent of teleconferencing rooms in offices. Unless a mobile cart was available to move from room to room, the telehealth offerings remained limited.
Breaking down the silos between data sources and departments involves a complex blend of technology and people that, not surprisingly, can result in conflict along the way. However, the ultimate goal remains the same for all: protect the patient. Understanding the concerns of each department and encouraging communication amongst the groups can reduce this tension, allowing for innovation to take hold and enhance care throughout an organization.
We are currently at a crossroads in the healthcare industry. Executives are working overtime to try to figure out how to connect and integrate data to best support clinical practice and patient care management. With health systems concerned about balancing both needs, they now need to figure out how to leverage data to get the best value out of their investment. Improvement and innovation in technology are slowly but surely enhancing the industry, but health systems are constantly being assaulted with software companies trying to sell them something. Thus, healthcare executives are left with the eternal question: Which pieces fit together best to create value and improve patient care?
Non-stress tests (NSTs) are the current standard of care for monitoring high-risk pregnancies. Intended to reduce the risk of stillbirths, these tests are for those who have one or more risk factors, whether they be maternal, fetal or obstetric complications.
Currently, these tests can be very time-consuming for patients. NSTs involve attaching the mother to fetal and contraction monitors to watch the fetal heart rate tracing and uterine activity. However, many rural and remote areas don’t have ready access to NSTs. Consequently, mothers sometimes travel up to several hours each way to get to our facility for their NST appointments once or twice a week. Once they arrive, there’s the usual wait time, the 30-60 minute testing process, plus an additional wait time for the test to be interpreted by a staff member and a clinician. These appointments, on top of any additional prenatal visits the mothers have scheduled, can therefore add up to a considerable amount of time, even for patients who live nearby.