Confronting 'Collaboration Waste': Strategies that drive efficiency, quality care + clinician well-being

As capacity strains swell at hospitals, identifying opportunities to streamline processes are paramount to ensuring patients have timely access to high-quality care.

Clinical communication and collaboration pathways often are ripe for improvements, said Will O'Connor, MD, chief medical information officer at TigerConnect.

Becker's Healthcare spoke with Dr. O'Connor to learn more about best practices, technology and next steps for hospital leaders to address a critical issue at care sites today: Collaboration Waste.

Question: Inefficiencies in healthcare are estimated to cost the industry billions annually — a significant concern as many hospitals continue to lose money. Can you describe key areas of clinical care where you're seeing such inefficiencies and waste occur?

Will O'Connor, MD: We've seen firsthand the multifaceted inefficiencies that significantly impede the flow of clinical care. These gaps in efficiency, collectively known as Collaboration Waste, present a substantial drain on both time and resources, directly affecting hospitals' financial stability and the quality of patient care. Collaboration Waste is everywhere, and it's hiding in plain sight — it's the missed phone call, an incorrect on-call schedule, five minutes here and 10 minutes there that collectively add up throughout a clinician's day and drag down their productivity.

TigerConnect has identified seven areas where this waste is most evident:

  • Searching: Time wasted looking for the right person to contact, often due to outdated schedules.
  • Mis-contacting: Efforts spent contacting a person only to discover it's the wrong person, due to unclear or incorrect information.
  • Waiting: Delays in receiving callbacks, lab results, consults, patient transport, etc., which stall patient care processes.
  • Switching: The cognitive and time cost associated with switching between multiple applications, systems and tasks, including the care of multiple patients.
  • Interruptions: Workflow disruptions from non-actionable alarms, overhead pages, patient signals and other interruptions that divert attention from primary care tasks.
  • Filtering: The challenge of sifting through vast amounts of patient data, alerts and notifications to prioritize care needs.
  • Deciding: Receiving incomplete alerts, notifications or messages that require clarification before a decision can be made.

These inefficiencies slow down care delivery and impact patient outcomes, clinician satisfaction and institutions' financial performance — leading to a cycle of waste that burdens the entire healthcare system. Collaboration Waste affects patient throughput, which directly impacts capacity. Playing phone tag to get a consultation in the emergency department ties up a bed when there are people in the waiting room needing care. The same thing can happen when trying to get that patient admitted and staff can't find the hospitalist on duty. "Left without being seen" rates are direct consequences of Collaboration Waste, as revenue literally walks out the door. Problems coordinating multidisciplinary rounds on the discharge end have similar effects on average length of stay data.

Q: Aside from financial costs, what are other consequences of disjointed care coordination/Collaboration Waste, especially from clinician and patient standpoints? Can you share examples?

WO: Disjointed care coordination and Collaboration Waste seriously affect clinicians and their patients. When care providers face communication disconnects, it often creates more work in the form of tracking down colleagues, playing phone tag and searching for the correct patient information. This leads to cognitive overload, further exacerbated by constant alerts and notifications. This not only affects their well-being but also their ability to provide quality care.

These challenges for healthcare providers inevitably affect patient care. Outcomes can include delays in care administration, longer than necessary stays, increased safety risks from errors in information exchange and an overall diminished quality of healthcare services.

Q: How can hospitals begin to address Collaboration Waste — where does technology fit in? What tools and best practices would you recommend?

WO: The first step in addressing the impacts of Collaboration Waste is to identify where these glitches and delays are taking place, and why. Once identified, hospitals can leverage clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) technology and adopt best practices for how care teams manage patients and daily tasks. A CC&C platform can streamline workflows by connecting care teams, patients and data. This integration simplifies care delivery, speeds up decision-making and enhances patient outcomes. Key tools and practices include:

  • Implementing an omni-channel clinical communication platform for coordination with the entire care team
  • Using automated scheduling for physicians and residents to ensure clarity of who is on call
  • Adopting alarm management and event notification systems to direct information to the appropriate care teams quickly and efficiently
  • Engaging patients through easy-to-use tools for voice, video and text communication

Q: As hospitals prepare to address inefficiencies and financial challenges in the near- and long-term, what's one action you'd recommend they take today to start driving sustainable improvements?

WO: As mentioned above, the first immediate action hospitals can take to start driving sustainable improvements is to conduct a thorough assessment of their current workflows and identify areas of Collaboration Waste.

At TigerConnect, we offer expert clinical services dedicated to helping hospitals map out their workflows and pinpoint inefficiencies. Once lags are identified, hospitals can tailor technology solutions to reduce or eliminate these wastes. Engaging clinical experts to help in this process can ensure that the solutions implemented are effectively addressing the identified issues and contributing to a measurable return on investment.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?

WO: It's important for healthcare organizations to recognize that while financial costs are significant, the impact of Collaboration Waste extends far beyond dollars. The quality of patient care, clinician well-being and satisfaction, and overall healthcare delivery are at stake. By prioritizing the elimination of Collaboration Waste through strategic use of technology and best practices, hospitals can save costs and improve care outcomes. TigerConnect's comprehensive approach — focusing on communication, collaboration and workflow optimization — exemplifies how targeted solutions can address these challenges head-on, setting a standard for the industry to follow.

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