Kelly Feist is managing director at Ascom Americas.
In U.S. hospitals, the rate of technology adoption increased dramatically during the pandemic, including investments in the digital front door to telehealth. In 2023, we see healthcare systems moving beyond the predominant pull model when it comes to access to clinical information to a push model as more hospitals invest in the last-mile technologies designed to deliver information directly into the care provider’s hands at the bedside.
Technology transformed the way hospitals use information when electronic health records (EHR) requirements went into effect more than a decade ago. Since then, we’ve seen growth in technology available for connecting medical devices like ventilators, IV pumps and patient monitors directly into EHRs. However, there’s a necessary pairing of the right technology and the right policies, procedures and resources to make it as effective as it can be. We often work with hospitals where patient vitals taken by a technician are validated by a registered nurse (RN) up to several hours later, which means there could be a lag or miss in spotting when a patient starts deteriorating.
As hospitals balance the pendulum of investing in systemic technologies and patient-centric ones, they’ve largely neglected to invest in technology to equip caregivers to provide more effective and efficient care—but that’s changing.
In 2023, I believe we’re going to see the shift from a pull model of patient information to a push model through intelligent alarming, early warning scoring and medical device integration directly to a nurse via a mobile handset. This type of technology has been successfully deployed in the most critical environments, like the ICU, but now it’s filtering down to other medical-surgical or general care environments, which is truly a game-changing model for patients and for caregivers.
As healthcare systems try to balance sending patients home quicker to reduce overall costs, and avoid costly readmissions, getting this balance right is hard. Technology can help. And it comes at a needed time when resources are stretched thin.
With headlines like “nearly 1 in 4 nurses said they’re likely to leave nursing due to Covid-19” and “Clinician Burnout Reaches New High During Covid-19 After 6-Year Decline,” hospitals are competing for nursing resources like never before. We found in a survey of nurses that those that invest in technology that helps nurses do their jobs better will come out ahead.
For hospitals that have prioritized clinical communications and collaboration technology, we are seeing more than one use case, often determined by the acuity of the patient population. For continuously monitored telemetry patients, many facilities are adopting a central monitoring or “war room“ approach. This approach enables dedicated monitoring techs to keep an eye on telemetry patients across the hospital, and in some cases, across multiple facilities in the integrated delivery network (IDN). This safety net means more support for staff nurses and the ability to facilitate quadruple-aim principles for patients.
In general care, or non-continuously monitored care areas, nursing shortages combined with much sicker patients creates the need for advanced analytics such as Early Warning Scoring to provide clinical support for nursing staff to recognize potential signs of patient deterioration before adverse events occur. Putting technology into the hands of staff nurses that can “push” these types of actionable alerts proactively form the basis of a clinical “back stop” for practicing nurses and a needed safety net for patients.
On the technology backend, what this means is hospitals must look for solutions that are interoperable with their tech stacks to give them flexibility, especially as they consolidate into larger systems that may have a disparate collection of technology to manage. Software solutions become a critical “glue” to optimize the technology hospitals have today and even create new possibilities for usage.
With this push of information flow to end devices, other hardware technologies can play important roles. For example, beacons can indicate and push notifications of when a status changes, such as a nurse’s location in a hospital. This can make a difference when it comes to safety when an alert is pushed from a nurse’s handset to call for help from security. From advanced medical device integration to clinical communications to digital whiteboards that display patient information at the room level, looking at how to get the most integrated, near real-time, actionable data pushed to those who provide care directly should guide hospital technology strategy.