The REAL cost of running too many disparate systems
29 July 2015
If your healthcare communication and administration systems are not working together, this comes at a cost
The IT environment in any modern hospital is constantly evolving. Systems may reach end-of life at different times and need to be replaced, the operational requirements of different departments may change and new solutions need to be sourced, or the hospital site may need to expand to meet the needs of its growing community.
And in the meantime, healthcare technology is advancing faster than ever before.
But any new technology is a major expense for a hospital. Whether it is a new nurse call system, phone or paging system, or a Real Time Location System (RTLS) – hospital IT and engineering departments are under increasing pressure to demonstrate a return on investment.
Whether you are tasked to put forward a business case for a new technology purchase, or to demonstrate a return on a recent investment, the task is a challenging one if you are managing a mix of new and old technologies that don’t speak to each other.
One thing is certain, if the systems your facility relies on most are not working together, you are not extracting the best value from any of them. Each system in their own right can only do so much.
So what is the cost of running multiple disparate systems?
The financial cost of an inefficient process is significant and cannot be ignored, but it is only one consideration.
The REAL cost of running too many disparate systems is the opportunity cost - what valuable features are you missing and what impact does this have on your staff and your patients?
If your key communication and administration systems are not integrated, you are not leveraging any one technology to its full potential. And the rate of development in healthcare technology means that you may be missing out on valuable features that helps increase patient safety, manage risk and streamline communication.
Healthcare system integration can enable great leaps in improving patient care and delivering operational efficiencies. Consider the following examples:
Streamlining of critical communications
Nurse call and phone system integration eliminates multiple manual phone calls and messages, and reduces the risk of human error. In a Code Blue event for example, staff press the Emergency/Code Blue button which automatically sends a message to the Code Blue team with the exact location of the emergency situation – all in a single step.
Patient information is updated in real-time on an electronic medical record
Integration of nurse call to the EMR enables everyone on the care team to access to up-to-date information on the patient’s status and history of nurse call events. Information such as rounding history, a patient’s falls risk, or emergency events are automatically captured in the EMR.
Patient safety initiatives
Always-on communication between patients and nurses helps to reduce the risk of falls and other undesired events. A nurse call is received on a nurse’s wireless phone and patients can be quickly re-assured that a nurse is on the way - and they may be less tempted to move out of bed on their own. Likewise, when a patient is ready to be taken back to bed, they can use the nurse call audio station in the bathroom to speak directly to a staff member.
Quick and seamless patient discharge process
Fast, direct communication between the nurse call system and supporting departments can dramatically reduce the time to coordinate the patient discharge process. Multiple phone calls and time delays are replaced by a single push of a button which initiates the discharge workflow. Porters are contacted first for patient transport, when they arrive housekeeping is automatically notified and when they leave, the admissions team is advised the room is ready for the next patient. Through RTLS integration, the system realises that a particular role enters or exits a room and automatically initiates the next step.
Staff assignments are administered once
Smart system connections eliminate the need to enter staff assignments into multiple systems. For example, information entered into the hospital’s staff rostering tool is automatically captured in the nurse call system. When nurses arrive for their shift they sign-in once, pick up their phone and they are automatically connected to the patients they are looking after that day.
Maximise the return on your healthcare technology investment
Unless you are planning a Greenfield hospital site which deploys the best-of-breed technologies, your IT environment is a mix of new and legacy solutions and you may not be getting the most out of your technology investments. And - even in a totally new environment - system integration can be a challenge if not approached correctly.
So what is the best approach?
No matter where you are in your technology cycle – always have a master plan
Work closely with your key stakeholders – clinical teams, IT and engineering departments, environmental services, and hospital management – to understand what is important and how the current systems are performing against this list. Ensure all requirements are captured in a master plan and identify the gaps between the current infrastructure and the plan. In doing so, ensure you are across healthcare technology developments and what is available in the marketplace.
Don’t let your legacy systems hold you back
If you are operating in a largely legacy environment, have limited options for system integration and are due for an extensive technology refresh, start with your business case. This should reflect your in-depth understanding of the best-of-breed solutions available and include a detailed analysis of the operational needs and of the patient-centric benefits that your staff and patients will otherwise be missing out on.
If you already have the budget to upgrade one or part of your core hospital communication systems (such as a new nurse call system for a new ward), ensure that your evaluating best-of-breed solutions with advanced integration features that will help you make the most of your remaining infrastructure.
If new investment is unlikely in the near future but you believe there is scope for further synergies within the existing environment, conduct a market assessment to determine the solutions which would help you realise your master plan. Contact the main vendor to establish a relationship – you hope to be working together one day! - and see if they can assist you in the short term by reviewing your current environment and identifying possible system connections within your existing infrastructure.
Are you operating multiple disparate communication technologies, planning a technology upgrade, or looking for advice around healthcare system integration? We specialise in hospital communication and nurse call systems, and patient entertainment solutions and are experts in healthcare system integration. Speak to us to see how we can help.
Other articles which may be of interest:
When healthcare system integration goes wrong and how to avoid it.
Time for a healthcare technology refresh. Things to look for in a supplier.