During National Health IT Week, champions from across the industry are uniting to share their voices on how health IT is catalyzing change in U.S. healthcare. The following post from a National Health IT Week Partner is one of the many perspectives of how information and technology is transforming health in America.
If you’ve worked in healthcare for even a short while, at some point you have probably been tasked with solving a significantly large problem on an unrealistic timeline with the assistance of a diversely opinionated committee that is rarely available to convene.
When I learned the contracts for the various patient engagement systems being used across our health system were soon expiring and that we needed to select and implement a new standardized patient-facing technology for all five of our hospitals, it felt like one of those impossible tasks.
Our hospitals were using different suppliers, different equipment, different cost and revenue structures, and had differing technology infrastructure. However, all these variants converged on an important rally point – our patients were having inconsistent care experiences.
This motivated us to overcome our challenges and positively impact patient experience and health engagement. Our decision process taught us a few things that make our journey worth sharing.
Our selection committee was large and geographically dispersed. Additionally, these stakeholders spanned multiple departments. Key players represented the chief operating officer council, nursing, patient experience, IT, facilities and engineering, and supply chain managers. It was critical for this group to both unite together and engage fully as representatives of their respective departments.
Uncovering the disparities for patients in our current situation identified our unifying goal: We needed a standardized system able to meet the individual needs of our patients. Another unifying concept was that most stakeholders were not familiar with all the capabilities of modern interactive patient engagement technology beyond watching movies. To achieve our goal, each of us would need to learn before we could even know what features to champion or concerns to highlight. But remember those expiring contracts … we needed to get vested quickly. Hands on is a great way to learn fast. We set up a pre-bid supplier workshop with the aim of touching, feeling and experiencing the new technology.
The pre-request for proposal (RFP) workshop put some of the responsibility of education on the suppliers. They were charged with showing us everything their technology could do and explaining how the various product features could be a benefit to our health system. Those of us making up the classroom of stakeholders were tasked with coming up with three to five requirement items to contribute to the final RFP document.
I don’t know how often suppliers are asked to provide this type of experience pre-RFP, but for us, it was extremely valuable. We weren’t focused on ranking one over the other or how much to spend on what features – we were being creative learners, forming ideas of how this technology could be used in our setting to benefit our patients and unburden our staff.
We discovered that patient engagement technology is very advanced and now can be fully integrated with other systems like our electronic health record (EHR), HVAC systems and more. It can be delivered on multiple platforms such as in-room TVs, tablets, or even a patient’s own mobile device. It can also be used for more than just entertainment and positive distraction. Integrations with the EHR enable things like order entry education and charting, personalized meal ordering with menus that consider dietary restrictions, automatic updates to a digital whiteboard and a lot more. The technology can truly pair with a facility’s imagination as the boundaries are broad.
It can be tempting to make a decision of this nature with as few meetings together as possible, or to send everyone off on his or her own to report back on a vendor or a feature. While that might seem like an excellent divide-and-conquer strategy, it puts significant burden on the committee members. They must do the research and then educate the team while also raising up the needs of those they represent. Everyone may be doing a fair share, but there’s no work being started at building the unity and commitment that will be needed to reach a final decision and ultimately champion the implementation and staff utilization. With our approach, we were wholly committed to the change and making a good decision as a group before we even wrote the RFP.
Sometimes people feel they should earn a prize for completing a large project. We feel we got the prize with our TV solution. It has entertainment, education, whiteboard and care team information and it integrates with our dietary, pharmacy and retail solutions. On top of that, we saved $646,000 in operational expenses and $98,000 in capital costs. However, it is only valuable if the solution gets used and appreciated. We’ve seen our patients empowered with more care information and expanded, streamlined staff communication. Patient satisfaction global measures rose quickly after go live indicating patient experience was improved with implementing our selected services.
Having an invested leadership team resulted in a proactive end user group supportive of change. If you face this type of decision, I’d encourage the stakeholders to engage as early as possible and be a class of learners together. Do supplier workshops, site visits, and even enlist the help of your patient and family advisory council. This approach starts a line of success that can stay intact long after the decision is made. After all, transforming healthcare requires a continued commitment, a willingness to listen to one another and the knowledge that your organization will need to adapt and change as new learnings occur.
Through this process we achieved more than our original goal of “changing the channel” from hospital entertainment to health engagement. We transformed the way our organization approaches cross-functional technology initiatives.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.
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