IT for care collaboration improves patient outcomes, provider satisfaction

Communication is key for effective care collaboration, but hospital workers face many challenges to seamless communication.

The top three challenges hospital workers cite are: (1) communication overload, (2) lack of standardized processes and (3) dissatisfaction with existing communications tools, according to a 20108 HIT Consultant report. However, technology can help knock down each of these barriers.

More than 80 percent of millennials — the next wave of employees entering the healthcare workforce — agree that workplace technology influences their decision to take a job, according to the Lenovo. To attract and retain top talent, healthcare organizations must reconsider their technology offerings and assess whether current tools positively affect employees' workflows by improving care collaboration and care delivery.

On day two of the three-day Becker's Virtual Health IT Summit sponsored by Lenovo Health and Intel Nov. 6-8, two health IT experts — Andy Nieto, health solution manager at Lenovo Health, and Wendy Bohner, health and life sciences solution architect at Intel — joined Atlanta-based Resurgens Orthopaedics CIO Bradley Dick to break down the communication challenges clinicians face and discuss how technology can solve these problems.

For years, healthcare organizations have been undergoing a digital revolution as the health IT sector continues to roll out more advanced technology products. A huge advantage of digitizing clinical workflows is the plethora of data it enables organizations to collect, Ms. Bohner said. This data holds promise for predictive modeling and could be used to identify high-risk patients and route staff to timely, appropriate care needs. Similarly, this data can be used to predict no-shows so that hospitals can forecast and allocate appointments or hospital beds more efficiently.

During the summit, Mr. Dick said his organization is starting to reap some of the benefits of the technology transformation and the subsequent increase in available data. He emphasized the importance of gathering the right data and getting it to the right person at the right time.

"Now that we've gotten everybody on EHRs, now the big thing is provider burnout and there's nothing that will burn your provider out more than having them have to do these administrative tasks of reconciling seven different charts from three different episodes of care," Mr. Dick said. "It's great that we can dump data from setting to setting but a big data dump is only as valuable as what can be distilled and synthesized from it to be relevant to care."

The next wave of technology will be driven by clinicians' expectations, especially as workplace tech becomes a greater influence in the jobs employees take, Mr. Nieto explained. Healthcare organizations must work with clinicians to ensure their needs are met and the technologies they use better position them to excel at care delivery.

"As this digital transformation has taken place, we see the opportunity of care coming back to the hands of physicians," Mr. Nieto said. "Whatever they are comfortable using becomes their [go-to] tool and frees them up to spend their time focusing on the patient."

Mr. Nieto said the eventual goal is for the technology to be "transparent from the patient's perspective so instead of seeing the back of a physician's laptop, what they are seeing is the physician's attention."

Moreover, technology design increasingly considers the clinician, so organizations must also revisit their providers' workflows. Mr. Dick noted it's not feasible to try to "fuse the same workflows you've been using in your clinics for years with the paper system and then try to implement a digital system to work like the paper system," he said, adding that the digital transformation is forcing his organization to identify areas where it could be more efficient.

The way Resurgens Orthopaedics approaches its technology strategy is to have a portfolio of technology offerings clinicians can select from based on what would be most effective for their workflow, Mr. Dick explained. This may mean clinicians choose to use a tablet when seeing a patient for a follow-up visit and then later opt to use a wall-mounted, all-in-one computer device when discussing a complex treatment plan with another.  

"By trying to pigeonhole every single provider into a small subset of specific ways to see the patient, it really hindered their performances," Mr. Dick explained. "So, we give them several different options [so they can choose] whatever works best for them … It's [about] flexibility, and that's what technology enables us to do."

Ms. Bohner described other ways hospitals are deploying technology to improve care collaboration such as radio-frequency identification, or RFID, to track patients' movements throughout their hospital stay. For example, this technology can help care teams know exactly when the patient left the operating room, so cleaning crews can come in to prepare for the next patient.

Hospitals are also using augmented reality and virtual reality for workflow collaboration, Ms. Bohner noted. These tools enable care teams to plan out complex surgeries in which they can see and interact with a patient's anatomy to determine exactly how the procedure would pan out.

"Even the patient can [use VR] to get a real sense of what is going to happen," she said, adding that the approach helped increase the surgical conversion rate because "[surgeons] have a sense of what is going to happen [so they] won't back out as often."

The three speakers largely agreed: When hospitals design technology strategies with clinicians in mind, staff members experience higher satisfaction.  

Workplace technology transformation doesn't just improve clinicians' satisfaction, but it supports the organization's overall shift to value-based care models with superior data collection. Since risk underpins value-based care, the more data and information hospitals have on patients, the better these organizations are able to understand the scope of risk and mitigate it.

To access the webinar recording, click here.

To learn more about Lenovo Health, click here.

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