The on-demand economy is quickly becoming a reality, with major changes forecasted for every industry. Take manufacturing, where 42 percent of the global workforce will be made up of mobile workers by 2020.1 Or transportation and logistics, which expects 15 percent of shipments to be made via instant delivery (two hours or less) within just a couple of years.2 And we’ve all experienced the massive shift in retail, giving us the convenience of shopping online anywhere, any time. For those in the healthcare industry, who are scrambling to stay ahead of the tumultuous changes of the past two decades, you are not alone.
Change is happening fast, and every industry must innovate to stay relevant. The sports industry is one example. At Zebra, working with the NFL, we’ve developed a real-time player-tracking solution that improves how the fans, teams and coaches experience the game of football. For the past three years, every NFL player has had a coin-sized RFID chip in his shoulder pads that transmits a signal which allows infrastructure positioned around the stadium to determine the player’s location, speed, distance covered and acceleration. While the industry has historically been rich in player and team stats, today sports leagues are moving toward real-time data that gives instant insights to coaches, analysts and broadcasters.
In transportation and logistics, we’re seeing similar innovations. One involves a trend toward determining the dimensions and weight of goods as they move through the supply chain. If we can determine this data early on, we can plan how many trailers to deploy to a distribution center, for example, and how many trucks to line up for delivery at an end location. We call this “orchestrating the best next move,” which enables us to streamline workflow and operations as a result of collecting that information earlier.
So how do innovations like these translate to healthcare? Just as in sports, transportation and many other markets, the healthcare industry is embracing the value of real-time information. The following three areas provide a framework for coordinating the devices, people and processes necessary to orchestrate the “best next move” in clinical workflow and patient care:
- Identity and visibility – In healthcare, mistakes in identity put patient safety at risk. The digitization of identity management can enable admission-to-discharge quality controls that reduce these risks and eliminate process waste. Barcoding and smart Bluetooth-enabled patient wristbands can automatically identify patients to caregivers, reducing errors in medication administration. RFID and barcoding provide similar benefits in labeling and dosage, while pharmacy and lab management present multiple opportunities for improving identity management.
- Mobility – Due to nursing shortages and high census, clinicians are spending less time directly with their patients. At the same time, communication barriers such as pagers and time-consuming call-back loops are hindering collaboration and patient care. Mobile technologies can simplify clinical workflows, streamline care team collaboration and improve effectiveness across the enterprise.
- Intelligent workflow – Nurses spend about 50 percent of their time documenting and coordinating care as opposed to providing care. If we can collect operational information automatically and turn that data into workflow intelligence, we can return time to the caregiver, increasing the overall quality of care. The technology to do this cost effectively is arriving now in the form of sensing and the computing power to intelligently process the massive raw data those sensors collect. In addition to the top and bottom line financial benefits, this shift also promises to improve both patient and caregiver satisfaction.
What if we could identify and locate every patient, caregiver, piece of medical equipment and medication in real time? Just as we can track every move the quarterback makes from the line of scrimmage, we can also use tracking technologies to great benefit in the healthcare environment. With real-time location system (RTLS) technologies, we can identify, track and monitor the condition of every patient, and deliver relevant real-time data to clinicians so they can make real-life clinical decisions.
Healthcare is inherently different from many other industries and requires some special considerations. But many of the technologies being used to improve the delivery of goods and services can translate to the delivery of high-quality care. Just imagine reducing medical errors by having automatic patient identification and the most up-to-date patient information contextually delivered to your mobile device. Or enabling clinicians to spend more time caring for people instead of coordinating and documenting care. Change may be challenging, but the benefits make those challenges worthwhile.
Tom Bianculli is Chief Technology Officer of Zebra Technologies.
- International Data Corporation (IDC)
- McKinsey & Company