The Role of Real-Time Data in Creating Sustainable Change

Healthcare has changed since the pandemic, driven in large part by increased expenses and staffing shortages. These shortages, nurses in particular, have caused significant challenges for hospitals that are struggling with financial sustainability. Today, there is a shortage of 43,000 nurses in the UK and over 78,000 in the US. This has exacerbated stress among nurses who were already struggling with overwork and burnout prior to the pandemic. In a recent nursing survey, 60% said they felt burned out, 22% said they had changed positions in the previous six months, and 13% said they were considering leaving their profession permanently. In addition, a large number of nurses will soon reach retirement age, which may further impact the problem.

Besides greater labour costs and high turnover, the nursing shortage has increased patient safety concerns. Research shows that nursing shortages can lead to an increase in errors, as well as higher morbidity and mortality rates. The impact on hospital safety scores and patient satisfaction ratings can be significant and result in damage to the organization’s brand and reputation.

Without sustainable change, the impact may have long-term financial consequences. The answer is to alleviate stress so more nurses feel rewarded and look forward to coming to work each day. When this happens, fewer nurses will be inclined to leave their profession, and more nurses will consider entering the field. The best opportunity to do this is through data-enabled solutions that improve transparency and give nurses more time for direct patient care.

Research shows that up to 30% of a nurse’s shift is spent on preventable waste, most of it waiting for “lab data responses, transfer of patients, or delivery of care.”

The Power of Data

Data is vital to an organization’s ability to proactively identify problematic patterns and process breakdowns and make appropriate, timely interventions that lead to sustainable improvements. While a typical hospital generates 137 terabytes of data daily, much of its potential is unmet because it is unstructured, difficult to access, and challenging to leverage in meaningful ways. The lack of location information is an excellent example and one with implications for nurse burnout.

Patients are typically moved multiple times throughout their hospital stay. While many hospitals have porters whose role includes relocating patients, in actuality, the job typically falls on the nurse. The reason is that porters can be dispersed through the hospital at any given time. While a porter may be in the process of transporting a patient from the emergency department (ED) to a skilled nursing unit, another patient in the unit may be ready to be transported to the ED to be put on an ambulance to be taken to a long-term care facility. Because the nurse has no way of knowing there is a porter close by, they have no other choice but to call the porter station, put in a request, and wait. In the meantime, another patient may be in the ED waiting for an open bed in the skilled nursing unit, and yet another in the ED waiting room may be waiting for an open bed to be seen.

The lack of data inhibits transparency, and more often than not, the nurses end up transporting the patients themselves, which means they aren’t available for direct patient care. It also means porters spend more time walking through the facility to answer requests in the order they’re received when a more urgent request is much closer. In other words, the lack of location data sets off a chain reaction that leads to costly inefficiencies, greater nurse stress, ED backlogs, and poor patient experiences.

A Better Way

One large hospital facing such a porter location challenge chose to implement a location-based workforce solution from Navenio. The infrastructure-free solution enables a new concept called Reverse Bed Chain (RBC). RBC uses a hospital’s existing data to empower real-time location services technology (RTLS). Using an intelligent workforce app on their smartphones, nurses and other stakeholders can track the location of patients, staff, and equipment in real time. This allows staff and resources to be more intelligently allocated based on their location and enables patients to be moved through the hospital more efficiently. 

Because RBC is AI-enabled, the hospital can now identify which patients should be prioritized to receive the next open bed. This helps reduce confusion and conflicts and ensures appropriate care is available to patients most in need. RBC also gives managers greater oversight for better decision-making and more effective planning, thus creating sustainable change across the health system.

Leveraging Data for Sustainable Change

In a recent Navenio poll of healthcare leaders across the U.S. and U.K., 75% said their organization had issues with sustainable change. When asked which areas of hospital process change were most challenging, 67% said patient throughput. By combining an organization’s own data with AI-enabled location technology, hospitals can identify breakdowns so they can be proactively addressed. The result is more efficient processes, less stress on nurses, improved care quality, and a better patient experience.