From the bedside to the C-Suite to consulting: Insights from an expert of integrating new technology
By: Caryn Hewitt, MBA, BSN, CENP, CPHQ, Senior Director, Consulting Services at CenTrak
The expression, “It takes a village…” isn’t exclusive to parenting. In my experience, thoughtfully planning, strategizing, and implementing emerging technology and design layouts within a new healthcare facility should take a community mindset. In line with the village advice, healthcare facilities consist of many different groups that must come together, interact positively, and collaborate for the betterment of the goal. To apply the village mindset in a new facility or implementation, various departments in the health system (nursing, IT, security, administrative, etc.) must share their expertise to ensure the facility flourishes and provides a safe environment. The village approach helps understand the direct needs of frontline staff and their patients – which increases the value of the new healthcare facility.
Throughout my career as a registered nurse, IT leader, chief information officer, director of operations, and digital health consultant, I have been given the opportunity to witness first-hand what healthcare professionals and patients want in a healthcare setting. To better understand what our colleagues and patients desire, we must invite them to the table. These individuals, once together, must serve as a sounding board to one another, listening to each other’s concerns and becoming a team when approaching senior leadership.
A recent study with the National Center for Biotechnology Information demonstrates how involving participants with different organizational and clinical backgrounds leads to higher user satisfaction when implementing technology such as electronic health records (EHR). By involving various perspectives when designing shared spaces and tools, there’s a greater chance of employee buy-in, enhanced usability, and improved efficiency and communication. This approach outlines the method personally used when integrating emerging technology and Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) into a new 400-bed trauma hospital in North Dakota.
Where it all started: Bedside nurse turned IT leader
After a few years as a bedside nurse in the Intensive Care Unit and witnessing first-hand the growing importance of emerging technologies, I felt that I could leverage my knowledge as a nurse to implement technologies that would make a real difference for patients and staff. My goal was to make the clinicians’ lives less stressful and promote better patient care. While I understood it at the time, it’s only become more apparent to me that it is crucial that IT teams have a strong understanding of what clinical personnel do, why they are doing it, the tools used in their day-to-day workflows, and what circumstances health IT aims to solve with the technology we’re implementing.
I joined and remained in an IT role for 25 years, implementing emerging technology and real-time location systems. I found my passion and purpose, demonstrating the positive impact thoughtful technology and workflow design can make for staff and patients. I began training staff with new use cases and highlighting how to apply them in meaningful ways. I’m always aiming to make sure clinicians understand the technology and its purpose. Subsequently, following an acquisition, I was blessed with an opportunity to serve as director of operations for a new state-of-the-art facility and standardize our technologies.
Connecting with “the village” is the first step to developing the plan to implement digital solutions for a new facility or existing department. Aiming for the new hospital to be a space designed for caregivers and patients by caregivers and patients, I connected with all relevant departments to further consider the best technologies for a patient- and caregiver-centric facility.
The importance of working together on a phased assessment
Deciding on the best path forward when implementing new technology involves assessing any challenges within the current facilities and anticipating the overall needs for the next 2-5 years within a new or updated space. I recommend completing the facility analysis through a comprehensive phased approach, which includes stages such as assessment, readiness, and transformation. When stepping into the assessment stage, healthcare decision-makers need to hear input from departments such as equipment distribution, supply chain, IT, and nursing. In my weekly meetings with 100+/- departments during the new hospital development, teams shared updates to reduce siloes and ensure a standardized, purposeful plan moved forward.
Once perspectives are shared in the department manager meetings, teams must gain consensus on the proposed technology use cases to prioritize and develop a strategic roadmap, deployment plan, operational model, and budget summary. This assessment phase enables facilities to take the first step in making impactful changes with emerging technologies. Aiming for a strong ROI and factoring in the needs of the larger “village,” we pursued RTLS; a trusted technology that had been supporting the health system’s overarching goals. For example, we used RTLS data to rightsize equipment needs based on our historical utilization, a key factor when determining the mobile medical assets required to support a new facility. The location technology and sensors powering RTLS platforms use badges, tags, and wearables to provide accurate location information for equipment, patients, residents, and staff. Through an automated workflow system, teams and facility managers maintain synchronized, real-time insights and communication to continuously measure interactions, minimize bottlenecks, monitor patient milestones, evaluate movement patterns for optimal staffing, reduce workplace violence, and increase workflow efficiency throughout the healthcare facility.
Following the assessment period, the operations team should evaluate the readiness of the staff to leverage the technology. When everyone is in a room together during the weekly department meetings, there’s also the opportunity to discuss upcoming training. Following our weekly meetings, 200 Health System leaders offered to assist in department-specific and general training on the new technologies. Through simulations and role-playing, 10,000+ employees received the necessary training. This benefits staff buy-in, creates comradeship, and ensures the relevant team members understand their new devices, equipment, and platforms.
The growing comradeship and support are crucial heading into the next phase: going live and continually monitoring the actionable intelligence from the technology to transform the facility and ensure the desired ROI. Every facility has its own unique challenges as they’re fine-tuning and preparing to go live. When developing a strategic team that incorporates nurses, hospital administrators, and clinic managers as part of the implementation team, challenges can be quickly identified, escalated, and resolved to provide quick time to value for the facility.
Applying director and CIO experience to health IT consulting efforts
Pursuing technology that offers standardized processes provides layers to facilitate caregiver insights – without physically entering the room – and ensures definitive spaces in rooms for patients, staff, and family is crucial when considering patient- and caregiver-centric technology and design. Even so, initial staff support and stakeholder buy-in can present a challenge. The key components for buy-in success when implementing new technology include early transparency, leadership support, and staff education on the technology’s purpose. Successfully deploying location solutions requires incorporating the proper expertise from the healthcare facility’s individual departments and vendor partners.
To enhance the ROI following implementation, leadership should consider pursuing an ongoing staff buy-in campaign. Video education and video learning can be beneficial tools that provide small bites of information, making the information easier to digest. It also helps to continue in the mindset that RTLS and emerging technology programs start at the top, which means leadership should wear their IoT-enabled badges to show their support and belief in the program. Team leadership should also showcase RTLS staff duress tools at daily floor huddles and discuss the purpose behind the location technology.
Staff duress and/or asset management solutions are often the first step for healthcare leaders moving through a journey with RTLS. When health system leadership collaborates with “the village” to assess top pain points, decision-makers typically pursue the need to better monitor the mobile medical equipment (MME) or provide greater support to staff who may experience duress. These scalable implementations can be done step-by-step as they’re beneficial instead of requiring a full system overhaul, ensuring the technology is more accessible to all health systems. Health systems can leverage scalable technology to follow the path that best fits their needs, facility size, location, and 2–5-year plan.
After the initial selection of RTLS, teams can continue to scale the technology with various system add-ons as desired. Since implementing its real-time location system, a hospital in North Carolina has over time successfully implemented over 50 use cases leveraging real-time visibility data and reports more than $10 million in overall benefits. The healthcare facility even continues to collaborate with its RTLS partner for consulting insights to ensure the technology is used to its fullest potential. Through the scalability plan, the hospital experiences savings of more than $900,000 per year simply by deciding to additionally implement an automated temperature monitoring system. Some additional benefits include asset management, which adds a savings of $2 million per year, and an increase in staff productivity, which is valued at over $2 million savings per year for the North Carolina hospital.
Take the time to consider the road ahead
The best way to achieve a substantial increase in value and efficiency across an entire healthcare campus or within a new facility is through a personalized approach that combines a strong patient- and caregiver-focused design with a strategic roadmap that considers the goals for the future. A well-rounded internal “village” team from the health system paired with expert-led consulting and training services can develop the most accurate roadmap to ensure the right technology is implemented to drive greater workflow efficiency, higher safety standards, the ultimate patient and staff experiences, and substantial ROI. By factoring in a range of experienced input, healthcare teams can maximize emerging technologies and RTLS to drive meaningful change throughout their enterprise using practical guidance from within their “village.”
Caryn Hewitt is the Senior Director, Consulting Services at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing, and security solutions for the healthcare industry. CenTrak has helped more than 2,000 healthcare organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient enterprise. For more information: visit centrak.com.