Tracking, throughput, and savings
Tablets and phones are being joined by a variety of other connected electronic devices. Some are being used to improve the efficiency, quality, and accuracy of lab work. In an older setup, nurses would have to print barcodes at workstations and walk them back to patients' bedsides to be applied to blood specimen tubes. This printing often would occur in batches, requiring extra care by nurses to not misapply labels to tubes. With small bedside devices now under consideration, these barcodes can be printed right at the bedside, says Annecharico.
By placing RFID chips in digital devices and wristbands, as well as on patients and other equipment, hospitals are coming alive with ambient up-to-date digital information. Such real-time location systems are "a parallel swim lane" to the adoption of tablets, Moroses says.
For instance, one HCA hospital, 94-bed Summerville (S.C.) Medical Center, installed an RTLS system that ensures that clinicians wash their hands by sensing when they enter and exit patient rooms and whether they use hand sanitizers in the rooms. "We've seen about a 25% improvement since we started measuring and analyzing the data in May 2012," says Louis Caputo, CEO of Summerville Medical Center. Have infection rates dropped? Summerville had few to begin with, but the goal is zero and RTLS helps, Caputo says.
Another HCA hospital uses RTLS to maximize patient flow. Last year, Aventura (Fla.) Hospital and Medical Center, a 407-bed acute care facility, faced lag times of three to four hours from the time admission orders were issued to patients in the emergency room to the time those patients got up to nursing units. Not only were the delays complicating care for those patients, but they also created overcrowding in the emergency department, says Chief Nursing Officer Karen Bibbo.
Using RTLS technology from GE, Aventura was able to identify rooms for cleaning as soon as they were vacated without requiring phone calls from nurses to housekeeping. Before implementation, more than 40% of admits waited in excess of an hour for a bed; after implementation, that number declined to as low as 7%, Bibbo says. "Patient satisfaction is much improved," she adds.
The latest tech surge can also mean big savings in further eliminating paper and printing costs. "We have managed to reduce the footprint of printed material that is used for meetings and just general distributions by introducing the iPad for meetings," Annecharico says. "Those who meet on a regular and consistent basis are replacing their laptops with iPads for purposes of having materials distributed to them, and they bring it right up in the meetings, therefore not requiring two things: one, the use of paper, and two, the use of color ink, both of which are simply wasteful in my perspective." Within a four-month time period, one midsize Henry Ford facility reduced its operating expenses by $90,000 by reducing the paper previously required, she says.
"We're at an amazingly exciting point where we're beginning to expect device-enabled support for better care today, and we're beginning to really imagine scenarios that elevate not only care but health tomorrow," concludes Perlin.
This article appears in the January/February 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.