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Automated workflow holds the key to elevated healthcare delivery

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There is a growing need for intelligence workflow automation to provide better solutions for healthcare specialists, a Zebra Technologies report reveals.

‘Smarter, More Connected Hospitals’, a global report published by Zebra Technologies Corporation, revealed approximately 80 per cent of executives intend to automate processes in the next year to enhance supply chain management, make vital equipment and medical assets simpler to locate, better organise emergency rooms and operating rooms, and streamline staff scheduling.

Physicians and caregivers experience overexertion during their shifts and spend too much time looking for medical equipment and supplies, according to the report. Over half of those surveyed expressed their administrative staff is similarly overworked and unable to accomplish their tasks during their shift.

With people's safety and well-being constantly at the forefront, hospital administrators are turning to technology to combat weariness, eliminate mistakes caused by manual processes and workarounds, and concentrate physicians' time on patients.

Real-time intelligence is essential for optimal patient care, according to 89 per cent of executive decision-makers and 83 per cent of clinicians surveyed. Hospitals are increasingly investing in clinical mobility tools, real-time location systems (RTLS), and intelligent workflow solutions to support smarter, more connected workflows.

However, more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of hospital administrators believe their businesses are not investing enough in staff efficiency and that more has to be done in the future.

The report's findings also indicate that roughly three-quarters want to deploy location technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID) to better track equipment and specimens, as well as to improve patient flow and security.

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Wayne Miller, Director of EMEA Healthcare

They are also leaning to location solutions to boost employee productivity, safety, and compliance while creating more dynamic processes to create more dynamic workflows and improve staff efficiency, safety, and compliance.

As opportunities for remote physician-to-patient and clinician-to-clinician consulting expand, many executives say they will integrate visionary solutions such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, prescriptive analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) to help improve both inpatient and outpatient care.

In an interview with Wayne Miller, Director of EMEA Healthcare, Zebra Technologies, we further expand on findings from the study and what the future holds for workflow automation.

There is consensus on real-time intelligence being essential for optimal patient care – however, what is the cost of investment for hospitals in terms of skilled manpower, innovative technology, and transitioning to a new model of care?

"Most healthcare systems have spent the last few months scrutinising policies, procedures, processes, and systems to see if they facilitate or hinder real-time data capture, analysis, and distribution.

Many have started to accelerate planned technology implementations or scale solutions to support additional use cases.

Technology can be deployed right now, making an immediate impact across many healthcare functions. Care teams have been mobilised along with clinical workflows to address some of the systemic issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mobile technologies deployed in days helped increase the efficiency and accuracy of patient intake and diagnostic actions, mitigate supplies shortages, and inform treatment decisions.

The investment to transition to digitised models of care is more about the need to redesign systems, processes and train people. The pandemic has propelled the adoption of innovative technology, and we anticipate that processes and people will quickly catch up and align with the new technologies."

Physicians and caregivers shouldered the burden of overextended hours during the pandemic, manual and administrative tasks such as locating medical equipment and supplies added to this, how will automating workflows improve supply chain management?

"Many hospitals have turned to technology to facilitate better communication and improve workflows. For example, mobile devices allow nurses and doctors to communicate better and streamline workflows effectively, reducing stress and improving patient care.

Handheld mobile computers help mitigate alarm fatigue by sending alerts directly to the right caregiver. Nurses can use mobile devices to enter vitals directly into a patient’s electronic health record (EHR) while at the bedside, saving time and reducing errors.

Clinicians with mobile devices can be notified immediately when a patient gets test results – and communicate the impact on patient treatment.

According to Zebra’s ‘Smarter, More Connected Hospitals’ global report, both clinicians 80 per cent and decision-makers 87 per cent agree that the quality of patient care would improve if nurses, clinicians, and non-clinical support staff had access to mobile devices and healthcare applications.

We are seeing hospitals increasingly embrace technologies such as barcodes, radio frequency identification (RFID), and real-time location systems (RTLS) to gain unprecedented visibility and control of their supply chain and inventory management systems.

These visibility enhancements help hospitals reduce inventory waste and save staff time.

Inventory management becomes easier with the right labels and location tracking technologies, such as RFID readers and barcode scanning devices.

Scanning items such as a mask, blood vial, medical device, or medicine improves inventory management system accuracy – and enables synced back-end inventory reconciliation systems."

Radio frequency identification (RFID) and other technologies can vastly improve patient outcomes, from a tech perspective how does it enable efficiency for physicians? How realistic are goals in deploying these and arming healthcare workers with devices - and overall witnessing a shift from present setbacks?

"Zebra’s ‘Smarter, More Connected Hospitals’ report reveals a stronger commitment to advanced technology tools as acute care providers strive to become more resilient and digitalise the patient journey.

Hospitals are investing in clinical mobility tools, real-time location systems (RTLS) and intelligent workflow solutions. Yet 67 per cent of hospital executives agree more must be done moving forward.

The approach to mobility is now changing. Nearly half 49 per cent of the surveyed executives now provide employees with hospital-owned devices intended for healthcare.

As more clinicians need devices, hospitals require more remote device management capabilities and data security.

Clinical mobility solutions make a positive impact on the quality and cost of patient care for adopters with 8-in-10 citing an increase in medical workflow accuracy and precision as well as a reduction in preventable medical errors among other benefits.

Technology has also proven highly effective in improving patient turnaround times and hospital workflows. Research shows that technologies like RTLS can result in up to 50 per cent faster bed turnover times and as much as a three-hour reduction in patients’ length of stay.

In a 275-bed hospital, cutting just four hours off the average hospital stay is the same as adding 10 new beds."

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