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How to Improve Hospital Workflows

How to Improve Hospital Workflows

How to Achieve Workflow Optimization in Hospitals

The issue of how to improve hospital workflows is one that concerns senior healthcare management at every level. Maximizing ROI – while remaining attuned to the needs of key employees and delivering a high standard of patient care – is pivotal to the success of a healthcare organization. One of the acknowledged methods of reaching this goal is by achieving workflow optimization in hospitals.

Fine-tuning hospital workflow management is a delicate business. Many decisions made by senior management in order to achieve workflow optimization in hospitals affect everybody within the hospital environment – including patients. Unhappy employees and dissatisfied patients will not achieve the objective of improving hospital workflows, and likely have a negative effect on ROI.

In the highly regulated healthcare industry, the process of assessing how to improve hospital workflows also has to take into account regulations governing how certain activities are conducted. One of these activities – the communication of electronic Protected Healthcare Information (ePHI) – is governed by several sets of regulations (HIPAA, HITECH, etc.). A solution exists for the communication of ePHI that has been proven to improve hospital workflows, increase productivity and help to deliver a higher standard of patient care – secure messaging.

Fine-Tuning Hospital Workflow Management with Secure Messaging

Secure messaging is a HIPAA-compliant communications solution that can be used to replace unsecure and outmoded channels of communication such as voice mail, email, pagers and fax machines – channels of communication that often inhibit critical workflows due to medical professionals playing phone tag in order to facilitate hospital admissions, request physician consults, obtain lab results, organize the transition of care and arrange patient discharges.

Each of these processes has its established workflow but – frequently – outmoded channels of communication prevent them from flowing as smoothly as they should. The resulting communication friction wastes time, erodes staff moral and delays patient care. With secure messaging, the mechanisms in place to ensure message accountability improve hospital workflows – eliminating the waste of resources and allowing medical professionals to spend more time with their patients.

The implementation of secure messaging will not change the way in which these processes are conducted, just fine-tune hospital workflow management. In each of the sections below, we illustrate how secure messaging can help to achieve workflow optimization in hospitals in specific scenarios. Not every scenario will apply to every medical facility, but the examples provided have three things in common:

  • Secure messaging reduces risks, helps healthcare organizations comply with HIPAA and qualify for payments through the Meaningful Use incentive program.
  • Secure messaging offers faster, more effective communication that helps healthcare professionals treat more patients with better success rates in less time.
  • Secure messaging enables healthcare professionals to use their personal mobile devices for such tasks as prioritizing their workflows and fostering collaboration.

Hospital Emergency Room Workflow Efficiency

One of the areas of a hospital´s operations where fast, secure communications are key to a successful outcome is its Emergency Room. It is in the Emergency Room where critical decisions are made relating to a patient´s healthcare that can have permanent implications for their wellbeing. However, even before patients arrive at a hospital Emergency Room, there are ways in which secure messaging can increase hospital Emergency Room workflow efficiency.

First responders and Emergency Medical Services can forewarn healthcare professionals of incoming patients and their injuries, attaching images and video to secure messages in order to give a more comprehensive explanation of the patient´s condition than any pager or radio message can. With this information, Emergency Room teams are in a better position to receive the patient and have the necessary resources available to attend to them.

The ability to send images and videos via secure messaging also enables the fast evaluation of patients by consultants not physically present in an Emergency Room. This not only helps towards eliminating admission delays and ensuring that patients requiring inpatient treatment receive it faster, but also increases hospital Emergency Room workflow efficiency for “treat and release” patients, who may otherwise be backlogged due to priority case congestion.

Hospital Admission Workflow Efficiency

In a 2010 study published by BioMed Central (BMC), admission delays were found to result in an increased inpatient length of stay and estimated to cost an average-sized healthcare organization in excess of $2 million per year. It also found that hospital admission workflow efficiency was influenced more by factors external to the Emergency Department than the admissions process itself.

Whereas some factors cannot be resolved by secure messaging, significant improvements to hospital admission workflow efficiency can be achieved with secure messaging. Bed availability can be monitored with secure texting, lab turnaround can be accelerated by secure texting, and the latest secure messaging apps have an auto-forward feature so that, if one particular physician is unavailable, a consult request is forwarded to another physician who can step in and eliminate the potential admission delay.

Orders can be placed via a secure group messaging feature that sends automated alerts to the unit managers and nurses who will be responsible for the patient´s healthcare. Unit managers, nurses and administrators can seek order clarification by secure messaging if required, and receive fast responses from physicians – or their deputies if unavailable. Physicians can also receive lab results and radiology images the moment they are entered into the EMR in order to accelerate diagnoses and decrease the number of redundant tests.

Hospital Laboratory Workflow Efficiency

Hospital laboratories play a crucial role in the healthcare system. Labs in hospitals and clinics perform over seven billion tests each year, and lab results influence over 70% of all medical decisions. Each specimen passes through up to a dozen steps from collection to the delivery of lab results; and, while processes are in place to maximize hospital laboratory workflow efficiency, some of these steps are often performed manually – not only adding time to lab turnaround, but risking errors that can compromise patient safety.

According to a study conducted by the Tepper School of Business at the Carnegie Mellon University, the integration of secure messaging solutions with EMRs reduces the risks of patient safety events by 27%. Researchers found that the implementation and integration of secure messaging helped with the correct ordering and follow-up of the right test, correct patient identification, and the correct communication of test results, specimen quality and delivery problems.

When labs results reveal a serious and urgent health issue, healthcare professionals must take immediate action to avoid a patient´s condition deteriorating. Integrating secure messaging into an EMR ensures lab results do not sit around in a physician’s inbox until he or she has time to attend to them. Instead, EMR alerts are automatically sent and reviewed the moment updates are added to the patient´s medical record, increasing hospital laboratory workflow efficiency and potentially saving lives.

Hospital Pharmacy Workflow Efficiency

An example of how workflow optimization in hospitals can be negatively influenced by outside events is in the hospital pharmacy. Most pharmacies have the key elements in place to optimize hospital pharmacy workflow efficiency – a good system of work, team members with the right skill sets, and an environment that enables prescriptions to be filled accurately and efficiently. However, the optimization of hospital pharmacy workflow efficiency is often compromised by addressing insurance issues and physician callbacks to confirm scripts.

With secure messaging, the issues of insurance and physician callbacks do not disappear, but the length of time attending to them decreases. With secure messaging, a pharmacist can address a payment issue or send a request for order clarification to a physician, safe in the knowledge that their message is 100% guaranteed to be received and likely to be answered at the first practical opportunity. Phone tag and workload increases are reduced, while pharmacies are more able to deliver high-quality patient care and maintain employee job satisfaction.

In addition to helping optimize hospital pharmacy workflow efficiency, secure messaging can help both in-house and off-site pharmacies comply with the conditions for the Meaningful Use incentive program. The electronic exchange of information, electronic prescription hand-offs, and the monitoring of medication journeys are all Meaningful Use requirements that can be conducted by secure messaging – securely, from a mobile phone and with no risk of a data breach.

Hospital Discharge Workflow Efficiency

Throughout a patient´s stay in a hospital, secure messaging enables healthcare professionals to improve hospital workflows and coordinate the transition of care. With secure messaging eliminating the short delays that can stack up and push patients past the 72-hour Medicare reimbursement window for many procedures, patient stays are reduced, hospital beds become available quicker and bottlenecks preventing hospital admission workflow efficiency are averted.

When it comes to hospital discharge workflow efficiency, secure messaging once again has an important role to play in increasing productivity and delivering a higher standard of patient care. Frequently, physicians will clear a patient to go home; but, due to discharge orders remaining unnoticed in the EMR, unnecessary delays occur. With secure messaging, automated alerts are sent to each member of the discharge team so that discharge planners, unit secretaries, nurses and other members of the team are kept in the loop and move the patient through the discharge process quickly.

A typical communication path to optimize hospital discharge efficiency with secure messaging would be:

  • Physician logs request for patient discharge into the EMR from his/her mobile device.
  • Nurse and unit secretary are automatically alerted. Discharge order logged into EMR.
  • Discharge planner coordinates medical reconciliation. Nurse instructs patient.
  • Nurse text patient´s family to arrange transportation.

Find Out More about How to Improve Hospital Workflows with TigerText

TigerText is a leader in secure, real-time messaging solutions for the healthcare industry. Rated by KLAS as the most widely adopted solution, TigerText´s encrypted messaging platform keeps communications safe, and helps to improve hospital workflows, increase productivity and deliver a higher standard of patient care in more than 5,000 medical facilities in the country – including four of the top five largest for-profit health systems.

While helping to increase efficiency via optimized hospital workflow efficiency, TigerText drives down costs, contributes to employee morale and an improvement in patient satisfaction. From our case studies:

  • The Memorial Hospital of Gulfportis the #1 rated of 116 hospitals that serve the residents of Mississippi. Nonetheless, nurses were relying on paging and their answering service to contact doctors. In order to reduce response times and converge their communication tools onto one platform, the hospital chose TigerText – consequently “saving hundreds of thousands of dollars”, according to Gene Thomas, the hospital´s Vice President and Chief Information Offi­cer.
  • Kadlec Regional Medical Centersignificantly improved hospital workflows when integrating TigerText into its EMR. With automated EMR alerts going directly to their Smartphones, staff no longer had to routinely log into the EMR to check for status updates. The outcome was quicker response times, improved care coordination and the optimization of hospital admission workflow efficiency.
  • Orange County Community Clinicsimplemented TigerText to improve the flow of communication between healthcare professionals in eight different locations. TigerText also helped to improve hospital workflows so that wait times decreased by 50%, prescription script errors were resolved immediately and patients reported a higher level of satisfaction from their experience due to an improvement in overall care quality and efficiency.