Addressing embedded inefficiencies in on-site alerts and communications
Amid acute staff shortages in healthcare, streamlining on-site communications and addressing information gaps at the point of care are key to boosting staff productivity and improving patient outcomes.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has strained Australia's healthcare system to breaking point, staff shortages in the sector are structural rather than a short-term issue. The nation's nursing workforce is projected to face a shortage of up to 123,000 nurses by 2030, according to Australia's Future Health Workforce report.
The shortage is exacerbated by the fact that the rate of turnover among nurses is significantly higher than that of other industries. Burnout is a key factor contributing to the poor retention of nurses, an issue which has only grown worse during the pandemic.
At the same time, the demand for acute care services continues to track upwards year-on-year as Australia's population ages.
The situation presents a significant risk to the standards of care that the community expects to receive, and that the profession expects to deliver. Yet it is not possible to stem the flow of workers from the industry in time to avert a crisis. The solution to safeguarding standards of care is to utilise technology to make existing healthcare staff as productive as possible.
Addressing embedded inefficiencies in on-site alerts and communications is critical to improving healthcare delivery, as communication issues can lead to medical errors. Fast, accurate and efficient communication between co-workers is important for quick caregiver response to a range of issues including bed status alarms and falls.
This allows healthcare workers to consume and act upon time-sensitive information more effectively, in order to maximise their productivity. It can also reduce alarm fatigue, better coordinate dispersed teams, reduce the risk of errors and close information gaps which can impact coordination and workflows.
Healthcare is "all about communications," says David Williams – country manager of on-site communications specialist Ascom.
"Every single aspect of what happens in a healthcare environment is interlaced with a series of communications, and often they are absolutely time-critical," Williams says. "If you've got embedded communications inefficiencies, then staff shortages become fundamentally worse."
"That inefficiency flows right through the care paradigm to the point where someone is missing out on the care they need."
Along with bridging digital information gaps and improving the immediate care of patients, enhanced communications can also deliver analytics for reporting and actionable insights to deliver long-term workplace efficiencies.
This can include capturing the timeframes of which staff members respond to alerts, and which don't, to understand choke points in communication and workflows, Williams says.
"This kind of enhanced visibility is invaluable to healthcare administrators when looking for ways to deal with staffing shortages, optimise workflows and deploy resources more effectively," he says.
"Providing contextually-derived messaging to all staff is far more effective than generic bedside alerts or simply sending alerts to a display hanging on the wall," he says.
"If you receive an alert on a handset which says a patient is having a cardiac event, imagine the ability to push a button and see the cardiac trace, so you can make an informed decision as to whether you walk to that patient, or whether you run."
A growing body of research also points to the importance of "the quiet hospital" and intensive care unit, with a reduction in ambient noise assisting with both staff productivity and patient recovery.
"If you can significantly reduce ambient noise such as beeping bedside alarms, then you actually speed up the patient's recovery, which means you get faster turnaround and improved bed availability," Williams says.
"Once again, you're improving both staff productivity and patient outcomes to help healthcare providers do more with less in challenging times."