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3 Tips for Better Clinical Workflows in Healthcare
3 Tips for Better Clinical Workflows in Healthcare
In a study involving more than 3,400 physicians, 61 percent believe EHRs have a negative impact on efficiency, productivity, and workflow.
Stating the obvious, that is NOT good news.
In fact, improving efficiency, productivity, and workflow are among the stated goals of EHRs. According to HealthIT.gov, “EHRs help providers better manage care for patients and provide better healthcare by:
- Helping providers improve productivity and work-life balance
- Enabling providers to improve efficiency and meet their business goals
- Helping promote legible, complete documentation and accurate, streamlined coding and billing
We see, then, a disconnect between some of the stated purposes of EHRs and their perceived performance. However, healthcare providers are not doomed to practice under a perpetual cloud of frustration with their EHR.
The tips for better clinical workflows in healthcare highlighted in this article are made possible by advancements in telecommunication technology. Let’s start by defining “clinical workflow” and how to make it better.
What Makes One Clinical Workflow Better Than Another?
Our definition of clinical workflow comes from the US Department of Health & Human Services:
“Workflow is the sequence of physical and mental tasks performed by various people within and between work environments. It can occur at several levels (one person, between people, across organizations) and can occur sequentially or simultaneously.
For example, the workflow of ordering a medication includes communication between the provider and the patient, the provider’s thought process, the physical action by the provider of writing a paper prescription or entering an electronic prescription into an electronic health record and transmitting the order electronically or having the patient take the prescription to the pharmacy to have the prescription filled.”
For this article, a “better” clinical workflow is one which enables clinicians to do one or more of the following:
- Complete a task in less time
- Complete a task with less effort
- Deliver comparable clinical services for less cost
- Spend less time waiting for something to happen
- Spend less time waiting for someone else to do something
- Collaborate with other clinicians more efficiently and effectively
- Deliver improved patient care as measured by outcomes and patient satisfaction
To be clear, this article is not about dictating to clinicians how they should do their jobs. This is about giving them clinical workflow solutions so they can do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
Mobile Technology Solutions Restore Clinical Efficiency and Productivity
The following are three tips for improving clinical workflows in healthcare. Each tip relies on an underlying mobile technology solution that makes it possible.
Gartner uses the term Clinical Communication and Collaboration (CC&C) to describe these technology solutions. They are built around the use of mobile devices that replace older communication technologies and workflows with more convenient, streamlined, and efficient clinical workflows.
Tip #1: Replace Outmoded Communication Methods
HIPAA Journal recommends secure texting as a replacement for outmoded communications channels like pagers, fax machines, voice mail, and email. Hospitals, clinics, and physician practices relied on those technologies for years, putting up with delayed and missed conversations and the resulting delays in consults, treatment, patient transport, and patient discharge.
Secure, HIPAA-compliant messaging is more convenient, more effective, and faster than paging, faxing, email, and voicemail technologies, primarily because most people always have their cell phones with them. A secure communication platform also makes it possible to add voice and video for more effective consultations and collaboration in inpatient care.
The result? Clinicians manage more patients in less time with better outcomes.
Here are two workflow transformations your healthcare organization could experience with a successful secure messaging and communication platform implementation:
- A nurse needs to inform the attending physician of a sudden drop in the patient’s vital signs. The nurse sends a secure message and can see that the physician read the message twenty seconds later. The physician takes appropriate action within two minutes. No risk of a 30-minute delay to patient care caused by paging the physician, then waiting for a call-back, and then playing phone tag. And no expensive medical intervention to overcome the patient’s downturn, because it never happened.
- A patient presents with a suspicious mole. The PCP takes a picture of the mole with their phone, then sends the image to a dermatologist, asking for a consult. The dermatologist examines the picture and replies within a few minutes of receiving the secure message. There’s no delay to patient care, no need for another office visit to review the results, and no extra days or weeks for the mole to become a bigger problem.
Tip #2: Implement a CC&C Solution with Key Integrations
Secure messaging is a core element of CC&C solutions, which can transform clinical workflows in healthcare when properly implemented and integrated.
The best CC&C implementations integrate with existing mission-critical systems, such as:
- Nurse Call
- Phone system
- Radiology / PACS
- Corporate directory
- Role-based staffing schedules
- Call center and after-hours answering service
Here are three workflow transformations you could experience with a successful CC&C implementation:
- A triage nurse detects signs of a stroke in a patient. The nurse immediately activates the Stroke Response Team, which is made up of five clinicians with five different roles. The nurse was able to save time by not having to look up any phone or pager numbers because the CC&C system knew which clinicians were currently staffing each role. The patient is treated before the stroke progresses to a dangerous event.
- A physician is at a staff lunch when critical lab results hit the EHR and are immediately routed to the physician’s mobile device. Without leaving the table, the physician reviews the results and places an order for requisite treatment. When the physician returns, the medication has already been administered, and the patient’s condition is improving.
- When it’s time to discharge a patient, a nurse can quickly initiate the discharge process and easily engage the clinicians who need to take action. No paper forms, phone calls, In Basket messages, pages, or unnecessary delays. The discharge process improves and is shortened enough to improve bed LOS, patient satisfaction scores, and staff overtime.
Tip #3: Implement a Telemedicine System
TigerConnect Patient Engagement: Video, Voice & Text in one Easy App
Simple and secure virtual communication for providers and patients
Practicing telemedicine involves using telecommunication technology to deliver care from a distance. The goal is for the patient and their care team to accomplish the same clinical processes they would complete while in the same location.
In telemedicine, the distance between provider and patient is erased by telecommunications technologies. Telemedicine takes three forms:
- Live video conferencing, such as a consult with a PCP and a specialist.
- Store-and-Forward, such as when a patient takes a picture of a worrisome mole and sends it to his dermatologist’s office. There’s no real-time interaction with Store-and-Forward.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), such as when a device measures and wirelessly transmits blood pressure, heart rate, or blood glucose data.
These three telemedicine technologies improve clinical workflows in healthcare by giving patients long-distance access to their care team, eliminating potential barriers to care.
Here are two workflow transformations you could experience with a successful telemedicine system implementation:
- When a patient and their family need to discuss test results or post-op care with a physician, a video conference replaces an in-person visit. The physician can easily communicate with multiple family members at once. This group meeting ensures everyone hears the same message, and it improves the likelihood of appropriate follow-up and compliance.
- When a patient needs to manage a chronic condition like diabetes or COPD, Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) replaces routine office visits … or ER visits when the disease is mismanaged. This increased contact with the doctor’s office decreases fragmentation of care that occurs when a patient forgets or lapses with their responsibilities.
A telemedicine system implementation can also result in reduced costs because online visits are less expensive than urgent care and ER visits. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reportedly saves $86.64 every time a virtual visit replaces an in-person visit.
One of the most reliable and innovative companies providing CC&C solutions is TigerConnect. Their communication platform includes TigerConnect Patient Engagement, which emphasizes engagement between patients and care teams through voice, video, and text.
Thousands of hospitals, clinics, and physician practices have successfully implemented one or more of these three tips for improving clinical workflows in healthcare. These 17 testimonials make a compelling case for the value and competitive advantage they received from their investment.
If your organization is ready to experience the benefits of secure messaging and a CC&C solution with patient messaging, contact TigerConnect today.
Will O'Connor M.D., CMIO at TigerConnect
Will O’Connor, M.D. is the Chief Medical Information Officer at TigerConnect. As a physician executive with more than 20 years of healthcare experience, Will is a passionate advocate for rapid advancement across the healthcare industry.
Tags: clinical workflows in healthcare, improved patient, save time, healthcare organization, process improves, clinical processes, efficient clinical, clinical workflow, Patient Care