Emergency Department Throughput: Mobile Technology for Effective Care Team Communication in Healthcare
Healthcare systems and care providers across the country are working to continuously improve care through technology, processes, and more. The concept of emergency department throughput is not new, but it seems to have become more urgent and in need of resolution.
I recently had the pleasure of attending ENA’s Emergency Nursing 2016 conference in Los Angeles and heard the theme patient throughput often from emergency nursing professionals as a critical challenge with many emergency departments seeing increased volume.
Over the past few years I have also read or encountered in the course of my career that hospitals are trying different things to improve patient flow from bed tracking tools to process changes such as PhysicianFirst triage or team triaging with positive results, although not so outstanding that every hospital system is replicating it.
So what struck me in my conversations at ENA and in my research, as a healthcare technologist, is that the common element of success is the ability to get the right resources (nurses, doctors, specialists, staff) to see the patient quickly – in other words, collaborate and communicate efficiently. And of course I think of technology to do that, and even more specifically mobile technology that goes with you where you go and fits your hospital’s processes/workflows.
Interestingly, patients also feel more confident when you use mobile technology. I came across an online poll conducted in 2015 by Harris for Ricoh Americas Corp. focused on information mobility in hospitals. There are a number of interesting findings in this report, but two relevant points to this discussion are: patient perception is that hospitals are more efficient if they use tablets or other mobile devices (74 percent) and over half of the respondents say they are less anxious during hospital visits when caregivers use tablets/mobile devices to perform data collection.
From the clinician perspective in the 2014 HIMSS Analytics Mobile Devices Study, the study’s authors write, “Clinicians reported smartphones/tablet computers greatly enhance their ability to communicate with other clinicians and healthcare providers.”
By using mobile technology (devices that you already have), doctors, nurses, and staff can reach contacts inside and outside the four walls of the hospital, engaging the right resources at the right time in a patient’s care to speed services and reduce delays and waiting, thus prevent overcrowding, LWBS incidents and improve patient satisfaction – in the ED, on the nursing floors, and operationally throughout the hospital.
An example of a hospital with impressive emergency department throughput is Northern Nevada Medical Center, which has issued and met a 15-minute emergency room guarantee, attending to patients within fifteen minutes of their arrival! With ED volumes on the rise and patient satisfaction scores an integral part of measurement, NNMC (like many hospitals) needed to improve processes in order to maintain their exceptional 99% patient satisfaction rate for responsiveness. NNMC has leveraged their emergency management platform from LiveProcess to provide efficient collaboration and communication across care teams to help them keep their high patient satisfaction score for responsiveness.
So with a variety of tools and technology to potentially help with the challenges of emergency department throughput, the focus must be on technology that (a) utilizes the infrastructure you have – meaning mobile technology and cloud-based, nothing that requires hardware and software installed; (b) light IT requirements – installation should not be labor intensive or take 6 to 12 months (or even more like an EHR); and (c) ability to tailor to your workflows.
It is Emergency Nurses Week, and I take my hat off to all of you in emergency nursing. You carry a great responsibility on your shoulders. Thank you.
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Margaret Thomas is a health information technology professional with experience as a clinician, hospital executive, vendor, and consultant. She has a reputation for improving operations through collaborating with clinical and operational stakeholders, building a cohesive, dedicated team, and implementing systems that are on-time, on-budget, and generate measurable business value. Ms. Thomas’ unique blend of information technology and nursing provides an appreciation for user engagement, usability, process, and technology.