There is an important strong legislative movement underway in Ontario, Canada to eliminate what is commonly termed “hallway medicine.” It also includes provisions to better integrate and coordinate healthcare services for provincial citizens and improve access to secure digital tools. Known as Bill 74, The People’s Healthcare Act, 2019, this legislation would strengthen Ontario’s public healthcare system.
As Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, recently commented: “By relentlessly focusing on patient experience, and on better connected care, we will reduce wait times and end hallway healthcare”.
Zebra wholeheartedly agrees. Achieving the three patient-centric objectives of Bill 74 will require Ontario Health Teams to have real-time operational visibility into the people, processes, and assets that relate to patient care and the corresponding needs of families and caregivers. Similar to what it recommended in its comments to the Standing Committee on Social Policy of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Zebra urges policymakers to assure that the final version of Bill 74 includes language that fully incorporates and funds the use of enterprise-based Internet of Things (IoT) technology in accomplishing Bill 74’s objectives.
Advanced Technology Investments Foster More Sustainable, and Affordable, Healthcare Models
As revealed in Zebra’s The Future of Healthcare: 2022 Hospital Vision Study, hospitals can gain several benefits from mobile IoT technology. Among the benefits are new capabilities that both help eliminate the operational challenges that contribute to “hallway medicine” and improve the coordination of patient care among a wider network of care providers. For example, the Vision Study notes that 67 percent of nurse managers credit clinical mobility with improving staff communication, collaboration and quality of patient care. It also confirms that the lack of real-time patient health information at the bedside presents a significant barrier to achieving optimal (i.e., integrated and coordinated) patient care in hospitals globally.
Other healthcare trends gleaned from the Vision Study reinforce the role that modern data-generation, distribution and analytics technologies play in expanding healthcare professionals’ competencies. Particularly, the study highlights how IoT, predictive analytics, mobility and locationing solutions can be utilized in a complementary manner to effect meaningful operational improvements and achieve the outcomes that Bill 74 seeks:
While in its infancy, predictive analytics is proving very powerful in streamlining hospital workflows and it holds great promise in reducing patient readmissions – especially when deployed in tandem with mobile computing capabilities. The keys to realizing the benefits of predictive analytics are found in the collection of appropriate (and increasingly mobile) data and the subsequent willingness to make changes based on that data. Hospitals around the world are already embracing predictive analytics and this trend is expected to grow in the future, especially given the growth in the use of secure mobile devices in healthcare settings.
Asset and Patient Tracking/Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)
Hospitals are large, complex facilities that include miles of similar-looking hallways, offices, treatment areas and patient rooms. Keeping track of assets, staff and patients is a daunting challenge. Industry estimates noted in the Vision Study white paper suggest that these operational challenges contribute to delayed procedure start times, decreased clinician productivity and lost medical equipment, specimens and supplies. In an effort to curtail these losses and increase visibility, hospitals are adopting RTLS and mobile computing to automatically track the real-time geographic location of everything from equipment, supplies and pharmaceuticals to patients and staff. RTLS applications are evolving rapidly and providing important benefits to healthcare providers in such functional areas as:
- Throughput and the Tracking of Patients from Admission to Discharge: Reducing the average length of stay can have the equivalent effect of increasing a hospital’s physical capacity by a potentially large number of beds. This kind of enhanced throughput supports the goal of eliminating hallway medicine and can be achieved when both knowledge and task workers have the tools necessary to accelerate the performance of their jobs and decrease the amount of time patient rooms go unutilized.
- Patient Security: While this issue is complex, it is ultimately focused on assuring that those who receive care are safeguarded. For example, the placement of monitoring labels on a baby’s wristband or a geriatric person’s hospital gown help ensure that only properly discharged patients have exit access.
- Asset Tracking: The tracking of assets such as infusion pumps, heart monitors and wheelchairs is critical and can help assure that key resources are ready and available when they are needed most.
- Staff Locationing: Identifying the physical location of a team member when they are needed strengthens patient care delivery coordination and improves staff collaboration.
By enhancing the effectiveness of workflow processes, the admissions and discharge process can be accelerated. Patient beds can be turned over more quickly without sacrificing the quality of patient care. Faster throughput in hospitals will help eliminate “spill over” into hallways and other locations not optimized for providing direct patient care.
These benefits can be further leveraged and enhanced through the use of technologies which help clinicians become more productive. For example, untethering healthcare providers from fixed workstations and allowing them to spend more time with their patients empowers them to deliver a higher quality of care. And enterprise mobile computing devices do more than provide airtight security, steadfast durability and intelligent voice and data performance in a healthcare setting. They also help to reduce elongated stays and/or readmits because they help limit the spread of illnesses from one patient to another as they are purpose-built to withstand the rigors of modern aggressive infection control procedures.
Zebra believes that policy makers – in Ontario and elsewhere around the world – can both foster higher levels of integrated and coordinated healthcare and eliminate the bottlenecks that contribute to hallway medicine by fully utilizing the benefits of enterprise-based digital health tools in their work.
Zebra is committed to helping government and healthcare leaders across the globe define and implement new initiatives that improve the overall accessibility and quality of care for all patients. We commend the Government of Ontario for its leadership in this area and their focused efforts to eliminate hallway medicine specifically. That is why Zebra has proposed the following recommendations to the Standing Committee on Social Policy of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in a statement submitted in early April 2019:
- Create a Technology Council similar to the indigenous health council and the French language health services advisory council, as set out in Schedule 2 of Bill 74, to advise the Minister on leading-edge health IT solutions.
- Create a pilot program in a select network of hospitals that can serve as a test bed to evaluate how a coordinated set of mobile, enterprise IoT-based solutions can enable hospitals and community practitioners to save money and improve care by helping assure accurate patient identity, enhancing collaborative care, and providing healthcare workers with greater levels of actionable intelligence.
We know that providing physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and administrative staff with real-time accessibility to accurate data sets can play a key role in advancing Bill 74’s objectives and in helping Ontario build the “Healthcare System of the Future.” We will continue to support policies which equip front-line healthcare workers with the enterprise-based technology solutions they need to perform their jobs faster and with greater efficacy.
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