Hospital inpatient decline is not a new trend as inpatient utilization in the U.S. has been declining significantly in the last decade. The shift towards utilization of outpatient services can be accredited to a variety of factors such as the boom in higher deductible healthcare plan offerings, advanced technology, and shrinking provider reimbursements.
According to Guy David, Associate Professor of Healthcare Management at the Wharton School of Business, the market for outpatient services has gotten bigger and hospitals, which used to control about 90% of those services now have only 50% of a much larger pie. Both surgical and interventional procedures are moving towards ambulatory surgery centers and outpatient clinics while inpatient visits continue to fall. With the growth of new medical technologies, complex procedures are now seen as minimally invasive due to new anesthesia and pain control techniques that allow patients to return to home more quickly. These are just a few of the factors driving the changes in our current healthcare environment. As a result, there is a greater need than ever for facilities to improve workflow and ensure efficient processes are in place in order to serve more patients.
Surgery Centers and Clinics alike can leverage a variety of technologies in order to decrease patient wait times, improve workflow efficiencies, manage costs, and improve patient satisfaction. In any healthcare setting, finite resources and staff must be well managed in order to provide timely, cost-efficient high quality healthcare. The following are a few areas in which simple technology improvements can greatly increase operational efficiencies and improve patient satisfaction.
RTLS for Clinic Workflow Improvements
Real Time Locating systems can provide a variety of real-time information and data to make improvements across an array of clinics and outpatient settings. When anticipating patient flow, physician time, and the overall patient experience, RTLS is the key to improving your metrics. Ambulatory surgery centers are able to coordinate pre-op procedures via a variety of staff, benchmark time spent in the OR and improve room turnover.
Using RTLS technology specifically for clinics, facilities are able to manage their patient flow by visualizing:
- – Current patient location and duration
- – Status of patient visit- (needs to be seen by nurse, doctor, sent to x-ray, have blood drawn)
- – Room/Location status (Room or OR available, assigned, in need of cleaning)
- – Next step in the process for the patient and where the holdups occur
Understanding this data is crucial for facilities seeking to make improvements to their workflow and processes through the automation of events and ability to make adjustments in real time.
Temperature Monitoring for Safeguarding Sensitive Materials
Temperature monitoring can be leveraged to ensure accurate monitoring and alarming for product safety in vaccine and medication storage, blood and tissue storage or other pharmaceutical needs. There are very strict and complex regulations when it comes to the control processes for temperature, humidity and other conditions in the medical industry. Monitoring systems are cost effective to ensure both regulatory compliance and quality control. Time spent by staff manually logging temperatures is inefficient and unreliable as it lacks any proactive means of alerting staff when otherwise unknown problems arise. Additionally, one CDC study estimated that 1-5% of vaccine inventory is wasted through simple, avoidable vaccine storage and handling glitches resulting in thousands of dollars lost. Utilizing temperature sensors in your facility can quickly see an ROI through saved employee time and avoidable losses. Systems can be utilized to report information via email, text messages and automated phone call alerts. More importantly, your facility will maintain compliance with data logged, incident reports and NIST management.
Sound Masking to Improve Patient Privacy and HIPPA Compliance
Many factors jeopardize patient privacy and comfort when it comes to an outpatient clinic setting. Typically walls in medical office rooms are constructed with lightweight building materials or frosted glass doors which don’t effectively protect conversations from being overheard. Although providers take many efforts to ensure HIPPA compliance, one of the most commonly experienced violations of privacy is medical information being overheard by unintended listeners. Sound masking solutions are a very cost effective way to achieve speech privacy in exam rooms and waiting areas by making speech unintelligible to others who may be a short distance or room away. These solutions mask sounds by adding a low-level background sound inside patient exam rooms or waiting rooms. The background sound is optimized to mask human speech from a distance, allowing patients to speak freely without fear of being overheard.
These are just a few of the many solutions that can improve both workflow and patient experiences in a clinic or ambulatory surgery center setting. If your facility is interested in any of these solutions or if you have other unique challenges which you would like to address, contact your local distributor to see how we can help.
About the Author
Amanda Hargis, Healthcare Account Executive, has 4 years’ experience working with South Western Communications in the clinical communications, security and life-safety technology industry. Amanda works with healthcare organizations to achieve workflow efficiency, staff productivity improvements, and outcome-based performance initiatives which lead to increased HCAHPS scores.