Reduce Toil to Improve Care Coordination and Clinical Workflow
Healthcare technology offers great potential for transforming the work of providing patient care. Technology can create increased opportunity for active caregiving. Consider the workflow of a hospital nurse. Making and responding to calls, managing patient records, and a dozen other housekeeping tasks can take as much as half of a nurse’s day, reducing time spent at the bedside caring for patients.
Source: Gartner (September 2017)
Gartner’s September 2017 Healthcare Moment: Enhance Care Team Effectiveness by Eliminating ‘Toil’ finds that “Toil is work that is considered manual, repetitive, automatable and tactical, that scales linearly and has little enduring value. Whenever possible, healthcare provider CIOs should introduce technologies and systems that can reduce toil.”
Specifically, Gartner researcher Barry Runyon describes toil. “Toil is drudgery and does not contribute to productivity and worker morale,” he states. The report later explains, “Toil often falls into a few broad categories, such as care team communication, locating people and things, responding to incidents, and patient documentation.”
Further, “Care delivery workflows are replete with toil. If left unaddressed, toil can create staffing and workforce challenges, undermine care team productivity and morale, and undercut the healthcare provider’s ability to meet care quality and patient experience goals.”
“Some toil is necessary, but most of it is not. Unnecessary toil that negatively impacts nursing and care team well-being, and contributes to staff burnout, is particularly insidious — and has become an industrywide concern,” Runyon states.
LiveProcess’s agile healthcare technology can help reduce toil
I observe in Gartner’s figure that many tasks that could be considered toil are essential to patient care or hospital operations. I believe the difference between an overburdened care team and an agile healthcare organization is the implementation of real-time tools that reduce toil without creating new tasks.
[See the blog post “Agile Healthcare: Leveraging Technology for Real-Time Care Coordination” for a description of agile healthcare by LiveProcess.]
For example, consider transitions of care. When a patient moves to a different level of care, a nurse will need to coordinate with a variety of potential support services, including pharmacy, transportation, nutrition, housekeeping and others. At the same time, the nurse will need to update the patient’s medical record, communicate with the patient’s family, and ensure that other staff is informed about the patient’s transition.
Clinical communication and collaboration tools can empower nursing staff to manage these tasks from any location, rather than remaining stuck behind a desk. A nurse can send individual and mass notifications that will reach the appropriate recipients wherever they are located. No need to track them down or wait for each person to answer the phone.
Using a tool such as LiveProcess Communicator, all those communications—whether they are sent by phone, text, or email—can be tracked in a single system, so that the receipt and acknowledgement of messages can be reviewed by the sender, or by a supervisor or shift replacement. Meanwhile, the time saved by the attending nurse can be spent assisting or educating the patient for a smooth, safe care transition.
Overcoming organizational barriers to real-time health system technologies
I’ve seen that hospitals, long-term care facilities and other healthcare facilities are gradually adopting technologies that can help reduce toil. Tools that accelerate the delivery and use of information—what Gartner has defined as real-time health system technologies—are increasingly common.[i] For example, many providers use electronic health records and patient portals to share lab results, medications and related data.
When toil-reducing technologies are championed by healthcare leadership and shown to have significant value for both patients and staff, resistance is likely to be short-lived. I think you’ll find that real-time health system technologies to reduce toil offer the potential to improve staff well-being and morale can also be a strong motivator.
See our press release: Tech could lower healthcare delivery toil by 50%: By 2022, 50% of the unnecessary toil embedded in nursing and care team workflows will be reduced or eliminated through targeted automation, artificial intelligence and analytics, Gartner report finds.
Learn about real-time healthcare.
See more blog posts about improving care coordination and clinical workflow.