An established real-time locating system can not only increase positive patient outcomes, but it can also help physicians with an overburdened workflow. Thomas D. Schwieterman, M.D., Vice President of Clinical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer, Midmark Corporation, has the results to show this system can be beneficial to anyone in the ambulatory space.
In the ambulatory space, the patient experience is a critical part of establishing an “activated patient.” Research has shown that patients with favorable patient experiences at the point of care are more likely to have both better outcomes and lower total costs of care.1 Two of the most impactful elements driving a positive patient experience are shortening the time patients spend waiting for care and increasing the amount of quality time the patient spends with their care provider.In addition to focusing on the patient’s experience, good outcomes are also impacted by the provider’s experience. Providers experiencing burnout, frustration and poor workflows tend to drive more costly care with less optimal outcomes.2 Many healthcare institutions are beginning to understand this and are placing increased emphasis on improving the experience of their care providers.3
Physicians and care teams often look to augment their efforts to deliver exceptional patient care with the best equipment, smarter exam room design, and integrated technology. However, they may lack a key tool needed to make a significant impact in improving the experience for both the patient and the care team. That missing element is actual workflow data. That’s why Midmark, well-known for providing exceptional medical equipment inside the exam room, acquired an established real-time locating system (RTLS) vendor, Versus Technology, Inc. — now known as Midmark RTLS Solutions, Inc.
RTLS makes capturing accurate workflow data possible, communicating in-the-moment patient and staff locations, wait times and staff interactions, as well as a vast amount of retrospective detail. This information immediately improves provider and care team communication about the real-time status of the workflow inside the building. The data comes to life with analytics that reveal insights to the duration of key activities, utilization trends, and bottlenecks that allow for targeted approaches to close gaps and drive new levels of overall patient flow efficiency.
In new-construction scenarios, more clinics are leveraging RTLS technology to radically improve workflow before the clinic even opens its doors. For example, eliminating the traditional patient waiting room in favor of a self-rooming model. Patients enjoy the freedom and security of self-rooming. It eliminates fears of exposure to other sick patients, improves privacy, and often leads to more efficient care delivery.4
Providers have the advantage of full awareness of which patients have arrived and are ready to be seen, without having to ask for verbal confirmation or search the EMR. The chaos of “who’s next” is removed, providing a calmer work environment for providers and their care teams. In addition, the elimination of the waiting room creates opportunity for introduction of new clinic spaces that are more conducive to direct revenue-generating care delivery, such as additional lab space, more exam rooms, or even a more sizable and capable procedure room.
However, RTLS-enabled self-rooming has more benefits than simply freeing space for revenue-generating activities. At the University of Minnesota Health Clinics and Surgery Center, RTLS has resulted in exam room space that is far more flexible and efficient since no rooms are assigned to specific providers. Instead, care teams rely on RTLS to determine which exam rooms are available at the very moment the patient arrives. Staff dynamically assign patients and their providers to exam rooms based on real-time demands. This allows more providers to utilize fewer exam rooms than would be required in a more traditional system where physicians have their own dedicated rooms.
In this way, a practice can significantly accommodate more patients each day. In the case of the Clinics and Surgery Center, they were able to see the same number of patients in a space forty percent smaller than their previous location. Shared spaces also foster greater care team collaboration and interaction, with physicians citing the ease of conferring with specialty providers on complex cases.
Using RTLS to speed the patient check-in process and make dynamic room assignments also minimizes the time physicians wait for patients to be ready. Removing one more delay in flow ensures that the minute a room is open, the patient can be accommodated, and the physician’s time is maximized.
Beyond dynamic room-assignment models, improving physician time management often requires a clinic to rethink its scheduling template to maximize physician productivity and availability. This is also an area where RTLS has dramatic impact. As the system automatically collects real-time data on wait times, patient-with-provider times, space utilization and more, physicians and administrators have measurable data to drive improvements in scheduling. This results in better utilization of exam room space and a reduction in non-value-added time spent.
Regardless of practice specialty, designing a better care environment can equate to greater efficiencies and improved patient outcomes. Whether you have a performance improvement team in place to assess workflows and manage change, or you opt to work with Midmark RTLS workflow consultants, this is an essential precursor to understanding how changes will affect physicians, staff and the overall culture.
For decades, Midmark has gained critical knowledge about the clinical space and its underlying workflow. Midmark products were designed to improve how care teams interacted, both clinically and operationally. Yet to become even more impactful, Midmark needed to more deeply understand whole-clinic workflow at a level that is far more detailed than could be achieved with simple observation.
Adding RTLS technology to the Midmark portfolio provides a new dimension to our efforts to improve the clinical space with a more comprehensive means to analyze the workflow aspect of healthcare, and thus, to dramatically improve workflow.
Midmark is uniquely poised to deliver in-depth clinical expertise of the ambulatory care space. The Midmark legacy for designing and furnishing highly efficient exam rooms, now coupled with the power of RTLS technology, ensures that customers have the right solutions to improve patient outcomes and deliver well-coordinated and highly efficient patient care. At the end of the day, these efficiency gains lead to a calmer, more productive work environment for physicians, ensuring they can focus on care delivery.
1 “The Patient Experience and Health Outcomes,” The New England Journal of Medicine, January 17, 2013. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1211775?rel=0" ?rel=0" 2 “The relationship of organizational culture, stress, satisfaction, and burnout with physician-reported error and suboptimal patient care: Results from the MEMO study.” Health Care Management Review, July-September 2007, Volume 32, Issue 3.
https://journals.lww.com/hcmrjournal/Abstract/2007/07000/The_relationship_of_organizational_culture?rel=0" ?rel=0" ,.3.aspx 3 “Hospitals Address Widespread Doctor Burnout.” The Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/hospitals-address-widespread-doctor-burnout-1528542121?rel=0" ?rel=0"
4 “Are waiting rooms passé: A pilot study of patient self-rooming.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4511340/?rel=0" ?rel=0"