Digital workflow solutions to help healthcare teams get more time back in their day

Staffing shortages in healthcare have organizations scrambling to find talent, automate what they can, do more with less and increase efficiency. It's a challenge that existed before the pandemic but has been much more pronounced since the pandemic began.

In a June Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by ServiceNow, the company's healthcare CTO, Drew Koerner, discussed factors affecting retention and offered digital solutions to help address this enormous issue.

Four key takeaways were:

1. Healthcare is undergoing multiple changes, requiring adaptation. Several trends in the industry are putting even more pressure on healthcare workforces. These trends include more personalized medicine and patient-centric healthcare; the change in the delivery of care, with more healthcare being delivered in the home; and patient remote monitoring systems that have heightened the complexity of delivering care across systems and workflows.

To date the healthcare industry has tried to respond to these and other changes by digitizing records, digitizing front ends and using relationship management systems. While digitizing information is certainly important, these steps have created more silos and have resulted in data sitting in both digital and analog formats. These actions have only increased the demands on healthcare workers and robbed healthcare workers of time, which has increased burnout and decreased retention.

"We have to think about things differently," Mr. Koerner said, in light of the current situation. He offered three specific ways to think differently.

2. Get rid of the "stupid stuff" that clinicians have to do. COVID piled more administrative tasks than ever on physicians, nurses and other providers as they found themselves juggling more responsibilities without streamlined workflows. That friction bogs down clinicians' days and robs them of precious patient time. Automated manual processes and digitization are the keys to getting rid of some of the non-value-added laborious work that consumes too much of clinicians' time and hurts retention.

3. Digital, digital, digital. The key to successful digitization is to approach it from an experience standpoint, Mr. Koerner said. He described benefits of having pre-built workflows and experiences with adaptable pieces.

In becoming more digital, a transformation model would begin with stage one where things are very manual. The stages then moves along a spectrum of increasing automation and efficiency to true enterprise productivity, and in the end, the future of healthcare work.

Also, part of digital transformation is engaging in ecosystem management, which includes managing providers, suppliers, partners and vendors through a comprehensive approach to service delivery that unlocks productivity. These steps all save valuable time, which improves the working environment and will boost retention.

4. Prioritizing experience. The idea is to increase efficiency for staff and provide a better patient experience. What if, rather than calling the nurse every time, a patient in a hospital could use a digital interface to request another blanket, a room temperature change or a different sort of meal? The patient experience would be improved and the nurse might get more time back in their day. Or what if a doctor could report EMR glitches right within the interface and data automatically populated so that the IT department didn't have to have a follow-up call on the issue? "This concept around platform mentality, where they just have to go to one single place and not multiple systems, creates a simplified experience," Mr. Koerner said.

Healthcare providers today are stretched thinner than ever. But digital workflow solutions that use automation can produce better experiences for both patients and clinicians. Digital technologies can help clinicians get more time back in their day to do their main job: caring for people. Ultimately, this will help improve the quality of work and will boost retention.

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