3 advantages of using mHealth in the OR

From the mHealthNews archive

The perioperative environment is commonly acknowledged as one of the hospital’s most complex. It can be a labyrinth for patients, who move through numerous providers and departments. For clinicians and staff, the workflow is highly compressed; like a string of dominoes, one small action can set off a chain of events with impacts such as delays and gridlock. Milestones, events and hand-offs are stacked back-to-back with minimal to no margin for error and little breathing room for changes.

This condensed and complex environment is precisely why complete command and control of the OR is imperative – and why mobile technology is an optimal path for helping achieve it. In particular, mobility offers three distinct advantages that support command and control and help ensure all parties have the information they need to keep workflow and patient flow moving:

1. A near real-time, patient-centric OR perspective 

During this highly compressed episode of care, a patient is treated by a team of clinicians who are often from different departments. In addition, supporting staff such as surgical scrubs and radiology play an important part in efficient patient movement. Having a single, shared view of patient milestones – for instance, when prophylactic antibiotics are administered, anesthesia is induced and the incision is made, or surgery is complete and the patient is on his way to PACU – allows the entire care team to know exactly what is happening which supports the delivery of more coordinated care. Giving everyone this same view on a mobile device can further synchronize care among disparate care providers. As a result, the patient is more likely to move efficiently between care events, and clinicians are less likely to miss specific timing for milestones such as medication administration.

This view also helps ensure a heightened clarity and patient-centricity across the care team when members are diverse and widespread. With it, for instance, a nurse is less likely to ask a patient the same question another clinician asked 30 minutes ago. This level of focus provides a better patient experience and may also give him greater peace of mind. 

2. A comprehensive OR view supports better decisions with fewer interruptions

A patient-centric view enables the OR team to keep one patient on the most efficient, highest quality care path. Sometimes, however, this path requires an adjustment that can impact the entire OR.

For example, it’s 9:35 a.m. and, as OR manager, you see that the patient in Operating Room 10 was scheduled to be closed at 9:30, yet the procedure is still ongoing. After checking on the reason for the delay, you realize you’ll need to move the next case scheduled for Room 10. You know you need to act quickly, and with a mobile view of the status of your OR suites, your actions can be non-invasive as well as fast.

The efficiency gains are clear: Using your mobile device, you can use your birds-eye view of the OR, drilling down into rooms, schedules and resources, to help you make on-the-spot decisions. But the benefit to your clinicians and patients goes beyond efficiency. Every time you don’t have to interrupt the care team, whether in person or by phone, you’re enabling them to stay focused on the task at hand. While the distraction of a quick question may only take seconds, it can ultimately hinder quality of care – especially considering the cumulative effect of multiple interruptions throughout a case.

3. Push notification to support optimal workflow and care protocols

Perioperative patient throughput is notoriously complex due to the number of hand-offs between various clinicians, teams and departments. Considering the mobility of most OR clinicians and staff, providing push notification via mobile devices is an excellent way to help ensure these many hand-offs happen according to schedule. Push notifications on mobile devices can facilitate everything from clinical milestones to patient transport, promoting efficiency and supporting your care quality efforts while helping team members be in the right place at the right time.

The future of perioperative services: complexity, consolidated

The Affordable Care Act jump-started the consolidation movement - 2012 saw twice as many hospital mergers as 2009. While hospitals consolidate and expand, though, it’s unlikely they will fund new OR suites. More likely, the OR team will have to retrofit workflows and cope with a new standard of volume. This scenario will require an even greater command and control – and the flexibility, ease and ubiquitousness that we’ve come to expect from mobility.

Marion McCall is vice president of the Clinical Solutions Group at Surgical Information Systems.