How Workflow Efficiency Helps Healthcare Organizations Prepare for an Uncertain Future
Improving workflows and processes has always been an important consideration for healthcare organizations (HCOs). But in today’s dynamic healthcare environment, factors such as rapidly changing healthcare technologies and a changing disease landscape mean that workflow efficiency is not just a consideration, but a priority.
An often overlooked aspect of workflow efficiency is the equipment used by caregivers at the point of care. Equipment designed to support the workflow can advance HCO priorities such as interoperability, organizational agility, and wise use of budget funds.
The “triangle of care” and interoperability
“Efficient workflows are essential in the ‘triangle of care’, which encompasses patient, caregiver and technology,” said Dick Mast, North American healthcare sales manager at Ergotron.
“Ideally, you want the technology to be easily accessible at the point of service and designed in a way that doesn’t disrupt workflow,” he said.
Whether mobile or wall-mounted, workstations can make documentation and interaction with the patient easier or more difficult. Workstations that are difficult to adjust, that are not comfortable for clinicians, or that require caregivers to turn their backs to the patient when using them can discourage point-of-care use.
Consequently, caregivers may be reluctant to establish a record when they are with patients. But that means they’ll have to finish mapping 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 errors can result in inaccurate patient records. These types of errors interfere with the completeness and accuracy of the data that interoperability initiatives rely on to be effective.
Organizational 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 quickly pivot between different care settings has become even more important.
At the start of the pandemic, HCOs decided to increase testing capabilities for COVID-19 using non-traditional settings such as parking lots, parking garages, sports stadiums and outside community centers. The adaptability of medical equipment has taken on new meaning in this context.
“What COVID-19 has done is really underscore how important it is to have equipment that can be quickly adapted for use in a variety of applications,” said Charles Alessi, MD, clinical director , HIMSS.
The scope of adaptability has come to encompass more than 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 allows vendors to quickly reconfigure the cart and customize it to support workflow requirements,” said Angela Poulson, senior product manager at Ergotron.
Sustainability protects the budget
HCOs can rarely predict with certainty what their workflow requirements will be years from now. The COVID-19 pandemic is a good example. That’s why it’s important to determine if the equipment was designed with the future in mind. Equipment should be universally adaptable and modular, with the ability to change components to fit another workflow without replacing the original equipment.
“If you can only replace your med carts every five years, you have to think about what’s going to happen in year four,” Poulson said. “Will your shopping 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? »
Besides universality and modularity, another indicator that the equipment has been designed with the future in mind is the consideration of ergonomics in the design. Today’s clinicians want carts that are “smaller, lighter and more agile,” Mast said.
Plus, future-proof carts take modern aesthetics into account. Hospitals tend to embrace commercial design, which blends residential and commercial attributes to make healthcare spaces less industrial and more calming. Equipment designed to align with commercial aesthetics can be an indicator that it was designed with the future in mind.
Identify forward-thinking equipment partners
The right equipment manufacturer will partner with an HCO to identify the most appropriate equipment to meet the organization’s unique workflow requirements. Translating specific needs into the right product can help organizations maximize their budget.
Important characteristics of an equipment partner include:
- Reputation: Does the manufacturer have an established presence in the specific equipment market that the HCO is considering?
- Cutting-edge product design: Does the design address adaptability, versatility, ergonomics, modern aesthetics and durability?
- Product quality: Does the equipment comply with industry standards? Relevant standards and certifications may include UL certification, CE certification, and ISO standards.
- cycle test: Does the manufacturer perform cycle tests to verify the expected life of the product?
Services and support: What type of warranties does the manufacturer offer on the equipment? Does the manufacturer offer tiered service and support contracts?
It is important to pay attention to the details of hospital equipment – even such basic equipment as a medical cart. Medical carts play an underappreciated role in workflow efficiency, ensuring the patient, clinician and 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 deliver efficient, patient-centered care.
Ergotron helps organizations optimize workflow efficiency. To learn more, visit healthcare.ergotron.com.