How workflow efficiency keeps healthcare organiations prepared for an uncertain future
Workflow and process improvements have always been an important consideration for healthcare organisations (HCOs). But in today’s dynamic healthcare environment, factors such as rapidly changing healthcare technologies and a shifting disease landscape mean that workflow efficiency is not merely a consideration, but a priority.
An often-overlooked aspect of workflow efficiency is the equipment caregivers use at the point of care. Equipment that’s designed to support the workflow can advance HCO priorities such as interoperability, organisational agility and the wise use of budget dollars.
The “triangle of care” and interoperability
“Efficient workflows are critical within the ‘triangle of care’, which encompasses the patient, the caregiver and the technology,” said Dick Mast, director, North America healthcare sales, Ergotron.
“Ideally, you want the technology readily accessible at the point of care and designed so it doesn’t disrupt the workflow,” he said.
Whether they’re mobile or wall-mounted, workstations can facilitate or hamper documentation and interaction with the patient. Workstations that are difficult to adjust, don’t fit clinicians comfortably or require caregivers to turn their back to the patient when using them may discourage their use at the point of care.
As a result, caregivers may be reluctant to chart while they’re with patients. But that means they’ll have to finish charting at the end of their shift, which can extend an already long workday and lead to errors. Piecemeal data entry can lead to incomplete patient records; data entry mistakes can lead to inaccurate patient records. These kinds of errors interfere with the completeness and accuracy of the data that interoperability initiatives rely on to be effective.
Organisational agility in the age of COVID-19
In addition to being easy to use, hospital equipment must also be adaptable to support workflow efficiency. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to pivot quickly across different care settings became even more important.
Early in the pandemic, HCOs moved to scale up COVID-19 testing capabilities by using non-traditional settings such as parking lots, parking garages, sports stadiums and outside of community centers. The adaptability of medical equipment took on a new meaning in this context.
“What COVID-19 did is to really emphasize how important it is to have equipment that can be rapidly adapted for use in a variety of applications,” said Charles Alessi, MD, chief clinical officer, HIMSS.
The scope of adaptability came to encompass more than the open architecture and modularity that supports different use cases within hospital walls. The workflow demands of the COVID-19 response required even more versatility.
“Truly adaptable equipment makes it easy for providers to quickly reconfigure the cart and customize it to support what the workflow demands,” said Angela Poulson, senior product manager, Ergotron.
Future-proofing protects the budget
HCOs can rarely predict with certainty what their workflow requirements will be several years down the road. The COVID-19 pandemic is a case in point. That’s why it’s important to consider whether equipment has been designed with future-proofing in mind. Equipment should be universally adaptable and modular, with the ability to switch components out to fit another workflow without replacing the original equipment.
“If you can only replace your medical carts every five years, you need to think about what is going to happen in year four,” Poulson said. “Will your cart still work? Will it be able to hold everything you need? Will you be able to purchase additional accessories to ensure the cart can do what you need it to do?”
In addition to universality and modularity, another indicator that equipment was designed with the future in mind is whether the design takes ergonomics into consideration. Today’s clinicians want carts that are “smaller, lightweight and nimble”, said Mast.
In addition, carts designed with an eye to the future take modern aesthetics into account. Hospitals are trending toward resimercial design, which blends residential and commercial attributes to make healthcare spaces less industrial and more calming. Equipment designed to align with the resimercial aesthetic can be an indicator that it has been designed with the future in mind.
Identifying forward-thinking equipment partners
The right equipment manufacturer will work in partnership with an HCO to identify the most appropriate equipment for meeting the organisation’s unique workflow requirements. Translating specific needs into the right product can help organizations maximise their budget dollars.
Important characteristics of an equipment partner include:
- Reputation: Does the manufacturer have an established presence in the specific equipment market the HCO is considering?
- Forward-thinking product design: Does the design address adaptability, versatility, ergonomics, modern aesthetics and future-proofing?
- Product quality: Does the equipment adhere to industry standards? Relevant standards and certifications may include UL certification, CE certification and ISO standards.
- Cycle testing: Does the manufacturer conduct cycle testing to verify the expected service life of the product?
Service and support: What kind of warranties does the manufacturer offer on equipment? Does the manufacturer offer tiered service and support agreements?
Paying attention to the details of hospital equipment — even equipment as basic as a medical cart — is important. Medical carts play an underrecognized role in workflow efficiency ensuring that the patient, the clinician and the technology are connected at the point of care.
In addition to facilitating interoperability, a well-designed cart is easy to use without being intrusive and enables caregivers to provide efficient, patient-centered care.
Ergotron helps organisations optimise workflow efficiency. To learn more, visit healthcare.ergotron.com.
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