With the “silver tsunami” set to skyrocket demand for healthcare alongside forecasted staff shortages, providers are likely to face seemingly insurmountable challenges within the next few years.
The good news is that health IT tools, such as virtual desktop infrastructure and telehealth, are coming onto the scene to streamline care. And over the next five years, mobility strategies are likely to be an important spoke in the wheel of improving care while relieving clinician burden, according to a new report by Zebra Technologies, “The Future of Healthcare: 2022 Hospital Vision Study.”
“Thanks to the adoption of clinical mobility, hospitals around the world are eliminating manual, error-prone procedures and replacing them with digital solutions that increase the accuracy of patient identification, streamline processes, improve the quality of patient care and enhance overall visibility,” the report states. “By digitally capturing information, data can be transmitted in real time to clinical staff, reducing — even eliminating — errors and delivering critical time savings.”
Over the next few years, clinical mobile adoption is set to grow exponentially, with use set to increase by 40 percent for all hospital workers by 2020, according to the report. And by 2022, 97 percent of nurses will use smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices at the bedside, the report predicts.
With this increased mobile use comes not just immediate convenience, but long-lasting impacts that can improve overall communication and advance IT infrastructure for healthcare organizations.
1. Mobility Clears the Way for Clinical Communication
Communication is essential to providing patients with the most comprehensive care possible as well as ensuring they are able to participate in their own medical care. However, communication is still a struggle for many healthcare organizations. Mobility can step in to help, with 67 percent of nurse managers surveyed in the Zebra report pointing to clinical mobility as a solution that has improved staff communication, collaboration and quality of care.
“Nurses armed with the most up-to-date information about patients can spend more time at the patient’s bedside, better prioritize alarms and optimize workflows with improved communication among colleagues,” the report notes.
2. An Opportunity to Upgrade Health IT Infrastructure
Adding mobile devices to a network requires supporting the devices and centrally managing them. Securing sensitive health data is also important. In just the next two years, 42 percent of hospitals will add asset management/maintenance, mobile device management, data encryption and remote device wiping capabilities.
These changes to infrastructure can help healthcare organizations make the upcoming transition to a more technology-focused environment and make room for tech growth in the long run.
“More and more, systems inside and outside the hospital are becoming connected and [are] transforming the healthcare delivery system, creating high-efficiency workflows that minimize errors and reduce costs,” the report notes.
3. Mobility Means More Actionable Data
According to a recent report by IBM, 90 percent of the world’s data was created in just the last two years. Healthcare organizations are generating and collecting massive amounts of data from wearables and other connected health tools that can help to monitor a patient and create a fuller picture of health.
“Vital patient information, from prescriptions and lab results to individual lifestyle data, can drastically improve the quality of healthcare,” along with artificial intelligence solutions that can help sift through the data to create actionable insights, the report notes. “Access to this type of data at the moment it’s needed, can help health professionals better analyze a situation, more accurately predict outcomes and take action.”
With 50 percent of hospitals reporting to Zebra that they have had a clinical mobility and predictive data analytics policy in place for three years, it’s also possible that predictive analytics could pop up to streamline workflows.
“The key is aggregating the appropriate data and being willing to make changes based on the information that data provides,” the report says.
4. Tracking Streamlines Hospital Operations
Hospitals are huge operations, the report notes, adding that oftentimes operational challenges as simple as getting lost on the way to patient rooms or losing track of staff assets could contribute to lost hours and productivity.
“In an effort to curtail these losses and increase visibility, hospitals are adopting real-time location systems (RTLS) and mobile computing to automatically track the real-time geographic location of everything from equipment, supplies and pharmaceuticals to patients and staff,” the report states.
- Tracking throughput — This would enable hospitals to track patients throughout their entire stay. “For a 275-bed hospital, reducing the average length of stay by four hours is the equivalent of increasing physical capacity by 10 beds,” the report notes.
- Increasing patient security — Children and the elderly need a closer watch in hospitals, which can put a strain on staff. Tracking wristbands can ensure that “only properly discharged patients have exit access.”
- Tracking assets — Everything from infusion pumps to wheelchairs can get lost in the system. RTLS can ensure they’re available and ready when needed.
- Locating staff — Just like assets, finding team members when needed can be difficult, but RTLS can help find them and deliver better care coordination.
While 2022 may seem a long way out, the report’s authors argue that it’s closer than healthcare IT leaders may think, so it’s time to embrace mobility. They note: “Now is the time for widespread adoption in hospitals since not only nurses and IT decision-makers see the benefits, but [so do] the new generation of patients that welcome and expect technology to be part of their healthcare treatment.”