Easy Steps to Take to Streamline Clinical Staff Workflow
There are many measurable benefits that come from streamlining clinical staff workflow in hospitals. Despite advances in technology, there are still many processes in healthcare that are conducted manually, there is considerable repetition of tasks, and often poor utilization of resources. Some studies suggest as much as 40% of a clinician’s time is wasted each day through redundant processes, repetition, and inefficient workflows. That time could be far better spent providing care to patients.
Clinical workflow management is often hindered by solutions that have been implemented in silos and do not communicate with each other. Even tools like EHRs, which have been in use for many years, have not significantly improved workflows. Poor integration of these tools has meant clinicians have had to duplicate many tasks across different applications and must still login to different systems to get the information they need to make clinical decisions.
Fortunately, there have been significant improvements in interoperability in recent years and there are now many software solutions that can be implemented to automate manual, repetitive tasks. Machine learning and AI-based tools are also helping to streamlining clinical staff workflow.
Problems Arising from Inefficient Clinical Staff Workflow
Clinicians’ time is precious, yet a great deal of time is being wasted each day due to less than optimal workflows, which naturally has an impact on the care provided to patients. Inefficient workflows and repetitive manual tasks are also a source of major frustration for healthcare employees and contribute to burnout, which is all too common in the healthcare industry.
When clinical staff workflow is not optimized, patients face delays and they are a major contributory factor to poor patient satisfaction scores. Those delays can also affect patient safety and clinical outcomes, while increasing the chance of readmission. By optimizing clinical staff workflow and automating repetitive tasks through the use of technology, resource utilization can be improved, patient throughput accelerated, and costs can be reduced.
Steps to Take to Improve Clinical Staff Workflow
Improving workflow efficiency can be a challenge, but even making small changes can bring major benefits. One of the key areas where clinical staff workflow can be enhanced is by eliminating repetition of tasks. It is important for there to be some repetition by different staff members to ensure patient safety, but there are often processes that can be eliminated without risking patient safety. Where possible, cut out intermediate steps, although be careful to assess how any changes impact other workflows.
Technology should be used as far as it is possible to automate tasks and processes should be simplified as far as possible. Computers should be kept updated and upgraded when they become slow. It should not be necessary to have to wait a long time for files to open and computers to boot up. Even a few seconds saved mount up over the course of a day.
Admission and discharge are areas where delays often occur and there is considerable wastage of resources. Automate admission and discharge processes as far as is possible, such as using self-service check ins and streamlining admin processes. For instance, make it a practice to verify insurance information when appointments are made and get patients to fill out forms online through patient portals ahead of their appointments to reduce delays that impact workflows when they arrive at the hospital.
The use of technology is important for streamlining workflows but choose the solutions carefully and make sure they can be fully integrated with existing systems such as the EHR. Thoroughly assess each solution to find out how much time it will save in practice by asking vendors to conduct a clinical workflow assessment.
Communication Problems Have a Major Impact on Clinical Staff Workflow
One of the biggest problem areas in hospitals that affects clinical staff workflow is the continued use of outdated communication systems. 1 in 4 hospitals still use pagers and 90% of hospitals still use faxes. One study conducted by the Ponemon Institute found medical professionals waste an average of 45 minutes each day due to the limitations of exchanging patient information using pagers. The study found replacing pagers with a secure messaging system reduces patient discharge times by 50 minutes due to improvements in efficiency.
Text-message based communication tools for healthcare help healthcare professionals to quickly get answers to queries, arrange quick consults, and many platforms support voice and video calls and allow clinicians to switch between all three modes of communication at the click of a button. The platforms also improve the accuracy of patient handoffs and reduce the risk of medical errors. Healthcare providers that have adopted the platforms and eliminated pagers report major improvements to workflow efficiency, patient throughput, accelerated transfer times, and improvements in staff morale and patient satisfaction.