You probably use your smartphone the way I use mine. I do my banking, answer emails, send and receive text messages, set reminders, access dozens of apps, make phone calls and organize my calendar – all on one device. So why can’t we consolidate technologies like this in healthcare? In an environment with high stress and high acuity, nurses and other caregivers would benefit from an “all-in-one” device that supports quick decision-making. Instead, in every hospital I walk into, nurses are overwhelmed by the numerous technologies required to do their jobs. One study (Higgins 2016) found nurses spend an average of 33 percent of each shift interacting with technology, including the electronic medical record (EMR).
As a nurse, I can relate to the time spent juggling multiple patient-focused technologies. At the start of a shift, the nurse needs to find a free desktop computer or grab a workstation on wheels (WOW) to check the EMR for each patient’s history. She or he will read the physician’s notes, look at the patient’s lab results, and review orders for procedures or discharge.
Medication administration might come next. If the hospital doesn’t have a workstation in every patient room, the nurse needs to walk from room to room with a WOW, plus a wireless or tethered scanner. While caring for patients, the nurse uses either a pager or legacy phone to receive notifications from physiological monitors. Meanwhile, IV pumps are probably beeping in patient rooms, with no way to let the nurse know unless she or he walks by and hears the beeps.
Inevitably, the nurse will need to find the patient’s physician. Depending on the hospital, this requires referring to a paper copy of the on-call schedule, or accessing the schedule on a hospital intranet via desktop computer. If the physician is on the unit, the search involves walking around to find the right person or using a noisy overhead intercom system.
When a patient needs a respiratory treatment, the nurse may not know who the Respiratory Therapist is on that shift, so she or he must go to the nurses desk and find the right number to page. The nurse then moves on to the next patient until the Respiratory Therapist calls back, potentially delaying treatment.
Case Managers often use legacy mobile phones, so when the nurse needs to check whether home health care has been arranged prior to discharge, a voice call is necessary. If the Case Manager is meeting with a patient, she or he may need to call the nurse back later, causing an additional delay.
To talk to the Pharmacist, the nurse will make a voice call to a landline. The Pharmacist may be busy or in a patient room, so the nurse may have to leave a message, call over and over again, or walk around the unit.
All of this activity – juggling multiple technologies and hunting for the right people – takes time away from the bedside. Imagine, instead, having one mobile platform that meets everyone’s needs and performs multiple functions. Just as your personal smartphone is your all-in-one tool for managing your everyday life, Voalte Platform is your all-in-one tool for managing patient care.
Let’s take patient discharge as an example, because many hospitals are struggling with the best way to improve patient throughput and discharge patients efficiently.
The nurse needs to ensure patients can complete certain tasks before discharge, such as a pulmonary challenge that requires the patient to walk for seven minutes without oxygen levels dropping. This involves coordinating schedules with the Respiratory Therapist and Physical Therapist. If the patient is getting medication prior to discharge, the pharmacy needs to receive the prescription, and a courier needs to get the medication to the patient’s bedside. The Case Manager needs to arrange home care or coordinate patient transfer to another facility and ensure all paper work is completed.
Using a Voalte smartphone, the nurse can send a group text message that gets the entire care team on the same page to expedite patient discharge. With the patient at the center and everyone using the same “all-in-one” method of communication, care can be coordinated easily. By contrast, when communication is disjointed and nurses are juggling multiple technologies, it’s not only difficult to collaborate efficiently with the rest of the care team, it also takes a toll on efficiency and nurse satisfaction, with patient care suffering as a result.
Dana Peco, MSN, BSN, CCRN, is Clinical Solutions Specialist at Voalte.