Health systems, hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities have a lot to be worried about when it comes to ensuring good patient outcomes. The population is aging putting stress on the health care organizations — needing new drugs, more personnel, more equipment, etc. In addition, regulations continue to evolve regarding healthcare (sometimes by state), creating additional compliance requirements.
Because of these strains, according to Modern Healthcare, some of the biggest challenges health care faces include:
- Financial challenges
- Governmental mandates
- Patient safety and quality
- Personnel shortages
For this blog post, we’ll address financial challenges, specifically reducing waste. (See future blog posts addressing other challenges.)
What is waste?
It’s no surprise — hospitals cost a lot of money to run. A 500-bed that’s 1.3 million square feet will cost about $800 million to build. What may surprise people is how much waste happens in hospitals. Healthcare Finance says about $750 billion every year.
First, let’s address an important point. Many health care costs health are necessary — needed medical personnel, important equipment and their maintenance, supplies, administration, and even marketing. These costs may be administrative, but they are vital to any organization running smoothly.
Waste, as Healthcare Finance identified, includes:
- Moving patients unnecessarily
- Getting supplies or pharmaceuticals patients don’t need, including providing them to patients after a patient has already been discharged
- Wasted staff potential
Higher costs doesn’t always mean better care. In fact, at ElevatePoint, we believe that you can lower costs and improve patient care. But it’s not just us — Health Affairs and other organizations have a number of suggestions.
How does an intranet help reduce waste?
Having a mobile intranet means information is available at a moment’s notice. It’s like your EHR system, vital for fast and accurate work.
But an intranet isn’t just a repository of information, although that’s underrated! Intranets enable two-way conversations, including sharing ideas.
For example, one health care system who used ElevatePoint’s intranet described online discussions enabled them to save about $40,000 in just one quarter. (See case study.)
Overarching ways an intranet can help
Rather than repeat these ideas ad nausea, here are some ideas that could help with all these issues related to waste … and more. It’s all about giving the right employees the right information at the right time to make them more informed and productive.
- Give people access to information on their approved mobile devices. No one expects staff to walk around with laptops, but they need communication. They also need to use approved mobile devices with connections to electronic health record (EHR) systems for better patient care. Combine those efforts by making your intranet mobile-friendly.
- Ensure information online is updated, including contact information. When information is managed and governed appropriately, employees trust it and use it for better communication and more productivity. Who to involve, how often, and more is covered by ElevatePoint.
- Put on-call schedules online and enable colleagues to text from the intranet. For health care organizations, knowing who’s on call and giving access to a way to contact people fast improves patient outcomes.
- Make it easy to find people, departments, and information. Wayfinding is critical in hospitals, but it’s just as important online. Using search and navigation that’s personalized helps staff speedily get where they need to go.
- Add policies and procedures online for medical professionals, even on the go. When staff has access to policies and procedures online, they follow them.
- Include integration or links to your EHR to get needed information quickly. When medical professionals have just one tool that provides everything they need to help patients, they’re more effective. Many health care organizations link directly into their EHR.
- Enable two-way communication for employees to break down silos and collaborate whenever they want. Often medical staff — even though ordering supplies — aren’t communicating as they need. For large health systems, that’s especially true. Communication and coordination could save money and time on processes as well as prevent over-ordering supplies.
Beyond the above ways, let’s address the specifics of how intranets can help the direct issues health care organizations face.
Intranet reduce moving patients unnecessarily
Because hospitals are busy, people are moved — from hospital to hospital and to other rooms — without needing to be. Scheduling issues and unknown capacity are two of the biggest culprits to this waste of time and resources.
- Put room schedules online. When medical professionals have access to when patients can enter various rooms — OR, MRI facilities, etc. — it makes coordination easier and reduces over-scheduling. It also enables emergency patients in faster.
- Enable staff to determine bed capacity at-a-glance. By placing beds online — with alerts — you can tell which floors and rooms, as well as hospitals, are at-capacity, preventing unnecessary moves.
- Have surge plans online in case of local emergencies. Let’s face it, when local emergencies or disasters happen, hospitals are pushed to their limit in communication and organization. When surge plans are online, people understand capacity issues and even coordinate with hospitals outside their system.
Intranets reduce unnecessary supply or drug orders
Right now, the United States is working harder than ever to reduce distributing unneeded drugs, especially opiates, to stymie our addition issues. In fact, many health care organizations have pledged to undertake new methods and embrace alternative care to reduce our dependence on opiates.
But it’s not just opiates. NPR lists other issues. Drugs have labels with a specific shelf-life, but they’re often effective longer that the stamped date. In addition, drug manufacturers are looking to combine drugs (that can be combined) for more efficiency believing often times it’s easier to swallow one pill rather than two. It just so happens it’s also faster to administer.
- Use subscription ordering online through integration or have a link from your intranet. By online ordering, you’ll see who’s getting medicines and can log controlled substances to reduce patient addiction.It also makes reporting easier, including which medical professionals are subscribing more than necessary. Lastly, that reporting helps with stocking and re-stocking.
- Enable people to see who’s been discharged by integrating or linking to systems that show discharges, such as UpToDate. Sometimes medical professionals subscribe drugs to patients who’ve already left the hospital.
Wasted staff potential
People in every hospital are working hard. But … are they working smart? Efficiency and productivity can be gained with more automation even as you increase employee engagement.
- Let staff tell you where to make changes by enabling them to submit ideas online. Other than using discussion forums and social media, you can submit ideas online and allow staff to vote on them. It’s innovation that’s staff-led.
- Make strategy clear and goals clear. Then, communicate about them often. Staff should know what your hospital, clinic, or health system is striving for and by when. Then discussions can center around how to meet these goals by the dates provided. Many health care organizations give voices using internal and external blogs to executives — their chief nurses, top administrators, and innovation leaders — to provide that insight staff needs to be more effective.
- Give staff a place to recognize each other according to your goals. Nurses typically have recognition programs, such as the DAISY, but what about for physicians and other medical staff that meet the goals your organization has? It’s a great way to showcase your values while rewarding progress toward your goals. Also, engaged employees are more effective — they provide better service and better patient care.
It’s easier than you think to reduce costs
Hospitals, clinics, and health care systems face some big challenges. Financial challenges are executives’ top concern. We all know finances enable health care systems to continue to operate. But watching finances can enable health care organizations to provide better health equity. Maintaining lower costs for health care ensures patients are able to get the care they need, rather than skip help due to high costs. So it’s not just about keeping the lights on — hospitals serve a vital role in every community.
Reducing waste using intranets are one way hospitals can provide better patient outcomes while reducing costs.