This guest blog post is by Bryan Fiekers, Senior Director of Research Services at HIMSS Analytics
Before and during HIMSS2018, Vocera worked with HIMSS Analytics to survey 150 clinical and IT leaders at hospitals, academic medical centers, and other healthcare organizations. Vocera issued a report with research conducted by HIMSS Analytics, called Research Findings: Frequent Interruptions Distract Clinicians from Patient Care, Contribute to Stress and Burnout.
Participants answered ten questions about managing the rising challenge of interruptions from technology-based sources such as phone calls, pages, texts, notifications, alerts, and alarms.
As we worked through the data, one theme rang clear: when it comes to dealing with, measuring, and addressing interruptions from technology, clinicians see a bigger problem than IT does. There’s lots of room for improvement.
Technology-Driven Interruptions Make It Hard to Focus on Patient Care
New technologies have the potential to bring critical patient information to the right clinician at the right time. They also have the potential, if unmanaged and unchecked, to create a cacophony of interruptions and data overload that leaves physicians, nurses, and other care team members distracted, interrupted, and burned out.
As Rhonda Collins, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer at Vocera Communications notes in the report, disparate communication systems using non-integrated devices can affect the clinician’s ability to get the right information at the right time to care for patients. The complex, chaotic healthcare environment requires a disciplined approach to building a communication strategy to ensure clinician satisfaction and patient safety.
All clinical leaders we surveyed think system-based interruptions disrupt focus on patient care to some degree. Ninety-four percent of clinical leaders say interruptions contribute moderately or a great deal to difficulty focusing on patient care, compared to 85% of IT leaders.
Overall, respondents estimate interruptions occur about every nine minutes. More than a quarter of clinical leaders estimate interruptions occur roughly every three to six minutes.
Leaders Want Better Measurement and Responsiveness
Clinical and IT leaders alike are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with their organization’s responsiveness and agility in identifying the frequency of interruptions and adjusting workflow to address problems.
Many vendors of IT systems provide usage reports that outline the frequency and context of messages, alerts, and alarms. Almost half of IT leaders surveyed either don’t receive usage reports, or do nothing with the data.
The majority of respondents measure interruptions sporadically if at all. Most measure because people complain. Meanwhile, two thirds of leaders want measurement at least quarterly.
Interruptions Contribute to Clinician Stress and Burnout
Eighty-two percent of survey respondents think interruptions contribute either moderately or a great deal to burnout and emotional stress. Ninety-six percent of clinicians say the impact is at least moderate.
It seems logical that there is a limit to the number of times someone can be interrupted and still perform their clinical duties safely and efficiently. Past a certain threshold, frustration builds; frustration leads to stress, and stress leads to burnout. Clinicians have enough to consider without the burden of being interrupted every nine minutes for non-emergent issues.
What Clinical and IT Leaders Can Do
Leaders need to monitor and adapt the flow of information to ensure that each team member gets what he or she needs without reaching interruption overload.
To allow technology solutions – and the clinicians they serve – to reach their potential, clinical and IT leaders need to work together to create a continuous learning process based on system usage, quality, safety, and human experience data.
Leaders need to apply analytics to all relevant data to identify the sources and frequency of interruptions. Based on that insight, they can adjust communication workflows to ensure each clinical team member gets the information they need – without overload.
The effort should result in better system usage, better clinical outcomes, and a more resilient, healthy, and effective workforce.
Download the report: Research Findings: Frequent Interruptions Distract Clinicians from Patient Care, Contribute to Stress and Burnout
View the recorded webinar: The Impact of Interruptions on Clinician Stress and Burnout – and What You Can Do About It