Collaboration and communication are the keys to efficient patient throughput. Each member of the perioperative team needs easy access to timely/accurate patient information and effective methods to communicate that information as the patient progresses through the surgical journey. This information is not just important to the periop team – it is also important to the floor nursing units as well. Since the surgery department serves as the entry point for many inpatient admissions, access to information about the surgical patient’s journey by bed management and nursing unit managers enables these areas to better monitor and prepare for the patient admission.
The following are examples of technologies that support an efficient patient journey:
Online patient portals are an efficient way to capture the preoperative medical history questionnaire and collect patient data. The portals offer patients the convenience of completing the information at any time of day and from any location (home, physician office, work). Patient portals are also convenient places to provide education materials on preoperative preparation and postoperative care instructions.
Automated preop screening tools are rapidly gaining attention. These screening tools merge a patient’s health status (e.g. ASA status) and planned procedure information (surgical invasiveness) and apply evidence-based algorithms to generate preop testing and assessment recommendations. This automated and streamlined evaluation process reduces unnecessary testing and consults, standardizes protocols and frees up PAT resources to focus on those patients requiring testing and further evaluation in a timely manner.
Patient tracking display monitors are effective visual tools to track the patient’s surgical journey. In addition to providing families with real-time information in surgical waiting rooms (a patient satisfier), this tool also provides timely and valuable communication between surgical services departments, surgeons and clinicians and can signal actions required such as orders, consent and new lab results, sending alerts to healthcare providers via wireless devices. Having access to these programs via mobile devices also allows surgeons, unit managers and other healthcare providers instant information on the surgical patient’s location and status. This technology streamlines communication eliminating unnecessary phone calls and pages.
Real-time location system technology can help track patient location and status, locate key surgical equipment and track staff actions such as time spent with patients. RTLS technology can be integrated with the electronic health record eliminating needless time spent searching for resources. Reduced patient wait times, reduced intraoperative delays searching for equipment improves staff productivity and surgeon satisfaction.
VoIP technology in the form of a wearable Wi-Fi enabled hands-free badge provides two-way or one-to-many wireless communication. This allows staff to stay mobile while giving them a means to communicate- send messages, contact other healthcare providers and stay connected.
Automatic text messaging triggers within the electronic health record send alerts to key surgical personnel e.g.: , contacting the anesthesia care provider when ready for patient induction; alerting the environmental services team for room turnover; and paging radiology technicians when intraoperative x-ray is required. This automation increases efficiency allowing the perioperative clinicians to attend to the patient’s needs.
As with any technology, the effective use of these technologies require a thorough evaluation of current processes and procedures and the identification of workflow changes required to support the new technology. Effective adoption requires end-user and clinician buy-in as the benefits of technology can only be realized when the technology is properly implemented and optimally utilized.