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Patient Safety

Walking in the patients’ shoes

PacMed adopts a real-time locating system to improve processes, safety and the bottom line. By HT Snowday


he care needs and documentation required to meet today’s healthcare standards compel caregivers to expect more time and informa- tion from patients and processes than ever be- fore. While there are tools to help make documentation easier, healthcare has traditionally lacked a good system to allow caregivers to “right-size” time with patients. Physicians and nurses often feel overwhelmed – that their time is “hijacked.” Meanwhile, hospitals and clinics carry a heavy patient load. Though they both need and want to care for more patients, their patient throughput processes are ineffi cient, and patients ultimately wait too long to receive care. Along the way, patient care documentation suffers – as does the patient’s perception of quality care.

A patient-centric approach In late 2009, Pacifi c Medical Center (PacMed) set out to address these issues with very specifi c goals: maximize provider time with patients and reduce an average overall visit time from about 70 to 46 minutes. Staff realized that the clinic would benefi t as a result of achieving this goal, because reducing wait times would allow the clinic to see more patients and improve retention by improving patient satisfaction scores. PacMed was building its Canyon Park Clinic, a full- service clinic in Bothell, Wash., and wanted to manage work fl ows and minimize wait times. To begin, PacMed began to examine the visit experience from the patients’ perspective. They talked to patients, and each evalua- tion team member visited each of PacMed’s seven other sites – as a patient. “We went through the whole patient experience, from top to bottom,” says Linda Eremic, RN, director of operations. “It was a valuable experience, and everyone recognized the need to maximize the time a provider spends with a patient.” According to Dr. Brett Daniel, the medical director for Canyon Park and someone who also played the role of a patient at PacMed, “We quickly realized that to cre-

28 August 2010

“There was some initial concern about switching to a model where patients room themselves in this 30,000-square-foot clinic, but we have had very few issues.”

ate the effi cient work fl ows, optimal use of staffi ng and reduced wait times that we desired, we would have to have a solution to help us manage our patient fl ow and improve team communication.” Staff began by investi- gating the options available to meet their needs. They explored using communication headsets, tools within an EMR solution and some of the older electronic fl ag systems. It wasn’t long before they hit on the idea of using a real-time locating system (RTLS). “Versus was the great tool that we found,” says Dr. Daniel, referring to Versus Technology, a provider of real- time location and automation solutions based in Traverse City, Mich. “A few other sites in our area had used Versus, so we went to see what they were doing with it.” Using infrared and radio frequency identifi cation (RFID) technologies, the RTLS identifi es current loca- tions of patients and resources, patient status and room status throughout the 30,000-square-foot Canyon Park Clinic. This information is delivered to providers within the context of the patient visit, so providers like Dr. Daniel know exactly when to see which patient. “Hav- ing a tool like this is essential to our patient safety and satisfaction goals,” explains Eremic. “From the time perspective, if the provider is able to spend more time with the patient, and less looking for supplies or com- pleting paperwork, their quality of care is better with better outcomes.”

Integrating savings and satisfaction PacMed’s RTLS includes patient and staff locating, mobile equipment tracking, customized clinical work fl ows (automated by Versus), real-time bed manage-


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