Four Healthcare Trends We Expect to Drive Conversations at HIMSS 2022 – and All Year Long

At the top of the list: real-time locationing and automation. We need to make it easier for clinicians to “transform inputs into outputs.”

A doctor and nurse speak in the hallway while the doctor looks at his clinical smartphone
by Rikki Jennings
March 04, 2022

When I first read the results of Zebra’s latest Hospital Vision Study, it took me a while to fully digest the feedback. There was far more alignment among global healthcare administrators and clinicians than I expected when it comes to technology and where we need to prioritize investments right now.

Though clinical mobility efforts remain widespread throughout the healthcare community, they’re no longer as narrowly focused on the bedside as they once were. In fact, this study revealed that just as many doctors, pharmacists, radiologists and lab technicians are expected to have a device in hand in the next two years as emergency and critical care clinicians. More notably, efforts are underway to “equip all hospital staff with mobility solutions that enable them to access intelligent communications and locationing tools and take full advantage of automation solutions designed to streamline workflows and improve care delivery models.”

As part of these efforts, we’re seeing clinical mobility strategies increasingly informed by evidence-based outcomes, not hypothesized theories. By that I mean that we’re starting to see a clear distinction between “mobility” and “clinical mobility,” with the latter focused squarely on ensuring healthcare-grade mobile devices and software apps are deployed throughout the entire hospital. The days of permitting consumer device use in healthcare environments are waning.

This is being driven in large part by the shift to nursing-led design of clinical mobility strategies, which I’ll talk more about during my HIMSS 2022 Nursing Informatics Symposium panel on March 14 at 1pm ET:

Innovation During Uncertain Times: Nurses’ Strategic Role in Healthcare Applications

Remember, clinical smartphones are no longer just pager replacements or two-way radios – not that they were ever that narrowly utilized. As we’ve realized more than ever in the last couple of years, these devices, when paired with the right software, are the enabling tools of quality patient care. 

As vehicles for real-time communication, collaboration and coordination, healthcare-grade mobile computers help to automate information flows and prescribe actions to clinical and non-clinical staff. In turn, they unburden workflows. But it’s important to stress that the device alone isn’t the “solution.” The intelligence guiding decisions and actions lies in the software connecting functional silos, syncing disparate information systems, and harmonizing processes based on real-time data – which is captured and then redistributed via the device in the worker’s hand, patient’s room, operating room or waiting room.

That’s why my team and I expect most conversations at HIMSS to focus on the time and financial investments needed to ensure technology spend results in solutions that are:

  1. Caregiver-Centric: We must deliver technology solutions that eliminate work and the unnecessary workarounds that make everyone’s jobs more tedious and tiring.

  2. Unifying: Collaborative care requires interoperable solutions. It’s time to tear down technology, information and functional silos. That’s why Zebra is collaboratively innovating with partners, customers and – yes – even some competitors. We want to ensure our front-line heroes have the tools they need to work cooperatively with everyone inside and outside their organization involved in patient care and community healthcare. 

  3. Restorative: When we solicit feedback during user acceptance testing and post-deployment surveys, we want to know if the technologies we gave workers are easy to use and manage. Even more, we want them to say, “I’ve finally regained control of my day…I’m not running ragged trying to do my job, make decisions, or take care of my patients.”

At a more granular level, I know we’ll be digging into the strategies and tactics required to successfully execute on the four key technology trends that will shape healthcare in 2022 and beyond:

  1. A move to mobility solutions built specifically for healthcare use. As I mentioned, I will be personally discussing the motivation for this shift with Banner Health’s Chief Nursing Officer during our HIMSS 2022 Nursing Informatics Symposium session.

  2. The influence that the growing nursing shortage will have on technology investments and operational overhauls across the board. This is also impacting the move to nursing-led technology designs and decisions, which I’ll discuss in the session.

  3. The rise in real-time location system (RTLS) use. Clinicians need to be able to find colleagues, patients and equipment fast. And we all need to be able to pinpoint what’s available (and where) in the supply chain.

  4. The automation of clinical and non-clinical workflows and processes. We must find a way to better manage patient demand/turnover and the workforce. We must also take tangible steps toward eliminating the issues that are leading to high staff turnover rates.

To be honest, the first two trends are both accelerators for the last two – just in slightly different ways.

The shortage of healthcare workers worldwide has led us to think outside the box, and look outside the four walls, to find skilled resources. Telehealth isn’t just being used for provider-patient engagements. It’s being used for virtual consultations and collaboration among clinicians and, to a certain extent, remote patient monitoring and care across – and beyond – healthcare systems. 

Core to those communications and coordinated care actions are mobility solutions – clinical smartphones equipped with software that allows for secure information sharing and asset locationing. In fact, RTLS’ benefit is only seen if a staff member has a device in their hand to quickly “see” the location of a patient, wheelchair, IV pump, or even their colleagues who may be needed for support. 

The same goes for workflow automation. You can’t tell every staff member where to go next and what to do when there via overhead pagers or PCs at the nurses’ station. They need to be able to receive alerts, retrieve relevant details about the patient or situation, and then know the best action to take without having to consult with another human being. In fact, automated analysis and decision making are increasingly considered byproducts of the automated data capture and distribution now supported by well-designed mobile devices, healthcare-specific software applications, and secure cloud-based information systems. 

The Takeaway

Clinical mobility, RTLS, and workflow automation are all going to be foundational to the successful unburdening of care delivery starting this year. However, the return on investment (ROI) will only be fully realized by clinicians, patients, and administrators if those designing the solutions…

  1. account for the clinician perspective and maintain a feedback loop to ensure fast optimization of solutions once deployed. They will be the ones who can tell you whether a workflow is really as automated in the real world as it looks like it should be on paper. 

  2. implement these seemingly standalone technologies as a cohesive solution. If solution design and deployment is well timed, it’s possible to simultaneously eliminate many clinical, supply chain, and administrative pain points that are currently burdening the delivery of patient care and leading to healthcare worker burnout.

  3. consider the resources required to successfully innovate, engineer, implement, refine, and maintain the solutions long term. If technology solves one problem on the front lines but creates two more on the back end, IT teams won’t be able to manage the platform in the way needed to keep it operational. And technology reliability is key to building a modern healthcare system powered by automated data capture, information flow, analysis and decision-making. We can’t afford for a single system to fail, as it could bring an entire workflow to a full stop in an environment where real-time communication, up-to-date information, and every second matters.  

If you are making plans to add or scale clinical mobility, real-time locationing or workflow automation solutions across your healthcare facility this year or next, let’s make plans to meet at HIMSS – or at another time and place of your choosing – to discuss your current strategy and solution design. My team and I want to make sure you’re fully considering:

  • the foundational IT requirements, which might demand building infrastructure redesigns.

  • the simplicity required to drive adoption and ensure sustainability of complex technology solutions.

  • the scalability of your strategies and solutions, especially knowing that workforce, supply, and patient levels will likely fluctuate for quite a while and we’re at the beginning of a very ambitious healthcare modernization journey.

You can set up time to meet at the show here. If you’d prefer to meet before or after the show, this is a better way to reach us.

Until we speak, you may want to check out these other great insights from healthcare experts and technologists:

 

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Rikki Jennings
Rikki Jennings, BSN, RN, CPN is currently the Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO) at Zebra Technologies where she is responsible for combining her knowledge of patient care, informatics concepts, and change management to effectively address the information and knowledge needs of healthcare professionals and patients to promote safe, effective, and efficient use of IT in clinical settings. She also serves as the strategic liaison for health IT efforts representing nursing and clinician needs.
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