We recently hosted a webinar with Sage Growth Partners on the topic of how hospitals can improve safety and reduce costs with effective enterprise clinical communication. We were fortunate to include our customer David Augsburger, Director of Clinically Integrated Technology and Systems at Major Health Partners (MHP).
Inefficient communication costs U.S. hospitals more than $12 billion a year and puts the safety of staff and patients at risk. One study indicated that a 500-bed hospital loses over $4 million annually due to communication inefficiencies.1
The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the challenges and magnified the costs.
We asked our webinar audience about the communication challenges they’ve experienced during COVID-19. Two challenges came to the top: Communicating while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), and the difficulty redeployed staff have finding people. Both have implications for safety of patients and staff.
I have frequent conversations with clinical leaders who are working through how to prepare for future crises. For any hospital facing these challenges, addressing them should be part of that preparation.
Now, with so many patients on infection precautions, entering patient rooms increases the risk of exposure for the nurse and extended care team. Many nurse executives I’ve spoken with have told me, “My goal is to care for the patient in the most humane and efficient way possible but also limit the nurses’ exposure to highly contagious illnesses such as COVID-19.”
Effective communication is the foundation of safety in a hospital for staff and patients alike. It requires a communication system that brings together not only people, but also systems and information. It needs to work seamlessly, and adapt and scale rapidly. As the experience of our Vocera customers during the pandemic has revealed quite starkly, it should include a hands-free, voice-controlled communication device option that allows frontline healthcare workers to communicate safely and securely while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
In our webinar, David Augsburger described how bedside nurses at MHP had been using smartphones with Vocera software, but when the pandemic struck, the hospital had them switch to the hands-free Vocera Badge. Wearing the Badge under a gown with gloves and headgear, a nurse can initiate communication at the tap of a button. (And, wearing the Vocera Smartbadge, users can initiate communication just by saying “OK Vocera.”) Nurses at MHP conserve PPE because rather than having to walk in and out of a patient room donning and doffing PPE multiple times, they can consolidate care by communicating outside of the room for additional supplies or assistance. This method also protects staff by decreasing their risk of repeated exposure.
At hospitals everywhere, we’ve seen clinicians redeployed to unfamiliar units in response to COVID-19 patient surges. Think of clinicians who have spent years working in a closed unit like a NICU or an OR where touchpoints are very limited. Suddenly they are placed in units where they work with a broader healthcare team that includes respiratory therapists, consulting physicians, specialists, subspecialists, and other frontline healthcare workers. When they get to these units, they can’t find anybody. They don’t know who to call or where to go.
David Augsburger described how MHP redeployed staff to unfamiliar areas while experiencing a large volume of very sick patients. Staff were able to seamlessly integrate into these new environments with the help of the Vocera Badge. Staff could find and call the right person by role or based on the room they were responsible for, even if they didn’t know the person’s name. The right group of physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and other frontline healthcare workers from the hospital’s employee pool could be assembled quickly. For example, MHP was able to mobilize and facilitate teams to reposition and prone the sickest patients quickly and efficiently.
We asked webinar participants which solutions would have the greatest potential to improve clinical communication going forward. The top answers: A unified software strategy for the entire enterprise, and communication integrated with clinical and operational systems.
For communication to flow, a hospital needs to have a unified software platform and unified communication strategy. An optimal enterprise clinical communication system allows everyone to be on the same platform and communicate directly with each other. Nurses and physicians can synchronize on the same software and nomenclature.
The same communication strategies that strengthen safety also play a role in helping to reduce costs and increase revenues. View the webinar, Effective Clinical Communication: Improving Safety and Efficiency, Reducing Costs, to learn more.
What have been the greatest communication challenges for your frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic? What solutions do you want to know more about? I welcome you to connect with me on LinkedIn.