Optimizing Clinical Workflows in Healthcare

Optimizing clinical workflows in healthcare delivery organizations will help to ensure the best possible care is provided to patients and clinical outcomes are strengthened. When clinical workflows are fine-tuned, common bottlenecks that hamper patient flow are reduced and the increase in efficiency mean clinicians can spend more face-to-face time with patients.

Optimizing Clinical Workflows in Healthcare Reduces Waste

Inefficient clinical workflows in healthcare result in considerable waste. As physicians and nurses know all too well, every second of their time is precious. Every minute wasted due to inefficient workflows and communication problems is a minute taken away from providing care to patients.

Optimization of clinical workflows in healthcare delivery organizations helps to maximize ROI by eliminating waste and utilizing resources more efficiently. The process can certainly be a challenge, but even small changes to clinical workflows can make a big difference by easing bottlenecks that hamper patient workflow. Organizations that have optimized their clinical workflows achieve better resource utilization, which helps to drive down the cost of healthcare provision.

Find and Remove Bottlenecks to Accelerate Patient Workflow

The patient journey from admission to discharge will naturally be slowed by certain constraints. When patient workflow is hampered, hospital stays will be longer than necessary which means bed utilization will be far from optimal. These delays are frustrating for staff and patients alike and can negatively affect clinical outcomes as well as hospital profits.

Even when workflows are fine-tuned there will be rate-limiting steps in the patient journey that slow patient throughput. Hospitals need to identify where queues are forming and take steps to address these problem areas. Effective clinical workflow management allows these bottlenecks to be eased without having to increase staffing levels. Consider reassigning work to other members of the care team in bottleneck areas to ease the burden on staff.

Inefficient processes slow patient throughput and eat up resources. Improvements to patient workflow can be made through automation, such as having patients use check-in kiosks. This reduces the burden on administration staff and improve the patient experience.

Duplication of tasks is common in hospitals, and while it is important for patient safety to build in some redundancy, there may be areas where improvements can be made, and intermediate steps can be eliminated. Having nurses review all prescription refill requests before they are passed on to a physician to sign off is one place where an intermediate step may be eliminated.

Accelerating Clinical Workflows in Healthcare by Optimizing Clinical Communication

One of the biggest problem areas in hospitals that impedes clinical workflows and reduces patient throughput is inefficient communication systems. Physicians just miss a specialist for a quick consult and an all too common costly game of phone tag begins, and every time a nurse has to chase up page or repeat a phone call precious time is lost.

A hospital doctor typically wastes around 45 minutes every day as a result of inefficient communication systems. According to a study published in the Journal of Healthcare Management, an average 500-bed hospital loses more than $4 million each year due to communication inefficiencies.

Communication inefficiency can seriously affect patient safety. Nurses and doctors are prevented from making the right decision as they do not have all the information they need. The information is often available, it is just not delivered to the right person at the right time. A Joint Commission study revealed 60% of medical errors are the direct result of communication failures.

Effective management of clinical workflows is important, but in order to achieve the best possible ROI and make real gains in efficiency it is necessary to replace outdated and inefficient communication systems. Many hospitals are still heavily reliant on one-way channels of communication such as pagers which inhibit clinical workflows in healthcare. In the United States, 1 in 4 hospitals still use pagers and 90% still use fax machines. These technologies once helped to make communication easier in hospitals, but they are no longer conducive to efficient healthcare workflows. There are now faster and more efficient communication tools available to healthcare organizations. By bringing healthcare communication into the 21st century, hospitals can further accelerate workflows and patient throughput, improve patient safety, achieve better clinical outcomes, and reduce costs.

Communication and Collaboration Platforms Enhance Clinical Workflows in Healthcare

HIPAA-compliant text messaging platforms have helped to revolutionize communication in hospitals and accelerate clinical workflows. The platforms can be used by all members of the care team to communicate with each other efficiently and effectively. Instead of having to rely on landlines and pagers, messages can be sent almost instantly for quick consults, essential information can quickly be obtained at patients’ bedsides, and faster and more effective communication helps eliminate bottlenecks in hospitals that impede patient throughput.

Healthcare communication and collaboration platforms not only allow information to be exchange easily between members of the care team, they also integrate seamlessly with EHRs third-party systems and help to close gaps in EHR functionality. Alerts can be generated and immediately sent to physicians when test results are ready, rather than having to continually login to the EHR to find the information. These solutions also support video and audio calls, so there is no need to switch platforms for more in-depth consultations.

By integrating the communication systems with scheduling, communication workflows can be expedited with role-owners accurately reflected in the system. That means the correct person such as the on-call cardiologist can easily be contacted without having to refer to a whiteboard, printout or spreadsheet. None of this is possible with pagers, landlines, and faxes.

Organizations that have adopted these platforms and have optimized clinical communications report measurable improvements in patient transfer times, bed utilization, patient throughput, clinical outcomes, and patient satisfaction.