Senior management in hospitals is often tasked with improving the efficiency of hospital workflow processes. In a hospital, many different departments must work together closely to ensure quality care is provided to patients. The workflows of dozens of people intersect, and delays or inefficiencies in any one of those workflows impact many other workflows, and ultimately affect patient throughput. When initiatives are implemented to improve patient throughput by eliminating inefficiencies, hospitals tend to see improvements in the quality of care provided to patients, patient satisfaction increases, and costs are reduced.
Hospitals have complicated workflows, so improving the efficiency of hospital workflow processes can be a daunting task. There is a continuum of interrelated processes, multiple connections and interdependencies in hospitals. Just as inefficiencies in one workflow can have a knock-on effect in several others, any changes made to improve workflow processes can similarly have an effect on several other roles and departments.
Care must therefore be taken when making any changes to assess the likely impact on other workflows. If there is a bottleneck in one particular department that is slowing patient flow through a hospital, simply addressing that area could just see the bottleneck simply moved elsewhere. Initiatives therefore need to be implemented to address all stages of a patient journey through a hospital, from patient intake, to placement, scheduling, diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, and discharge.
Here we explore one of the most important changes to make that can have wide reaching benefits across the entire healthcare continuum, helping to eliminate inefficiencies across virtually all departments in a hospital; with improvements even made before a patient arrives at a hospital and long after discharge.
One of the main causes of inefficient workflows in hospitals is poor communication. In order to make correct decisions, clinicians need accurate, up to date information. If that information is not available, incorrect decisions may be made and there will be inevitable delays to patient diagnoses and treatment. A patient cannot usually be instantly diagnosed, treated, and discharged, but oftentimes, patient delays are experienced when all the necessary information is available, it is just not available to the people who need. Communication failures between clinicians are the commonest cause of medical errors and adverse events. Communication is also a significant factor in patient satisfaction. Improving communication efficiency will help to reduce medical errors, accelerate patient throughput, reduce readmissions, improve patient outcomes, and reduce costs.
One of the main causes of communication failures in hospitals is the continued reliance on out of date communication technologies. Despite modern communication systems having been available for several years, many hospitals are still reliant on pagers and faxes for communication and landlines are still extensively used, even though most clinicians carry mobile phones. Research suggests that an average physician wastes around 45 minutes each day on outdated communication systems such as pagers, faxes, and landlines.
Clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platforms have been shown to improve communication efficiency in hospitals and streamline hospital workflow processes for physicians, nurses, and other members of the care team. These platforms, also known as secure messaging platforms, are text message based and usually accessed through the mobile phones that most clinicians carry, although they can also be used on desktop computers.
These platforms replace pagers, faxes, and reduce reliance on landlines. While text messages are the most used feature, they also support voice and video calls. CC&C platforms allow information to be communicated almost instantly to the people who need it, resulting in faster decision making. The platforms can pull information from EHRs such as patient information and a clinician’s patient list, test results can be received the second they are ready, and the platforms integrate with scheduling systems to ensure that the right person can be instantly found. The platforms also help to eliminate the potential for medical errors by ensuring all information about a patient can be quickly and efficiently transferred during shift handovers, ensuring an easily accessible record exists about all aspects of a patient’s care. Information communicated through the platforms can also be sent to the EHR.
If only one thing could be done to improve hospital workflow processes, replacing outdated communication tools with a CC&C platform should be top of the list.
Hospitals that have implemented these platforms report reductions the time it takes to coordinate care, faster admissions and discharges, improved response times, decreased patient transfer times, higher patient satisfaction scores, significant improvement to many hospital workflow processes and major cost reductions.