During the pandemic, hospitals across the country saw an uptick in care complications and hospital-acquired infections. Between 2019 and 2020, the National Healthcare Safety Network found increases in four out of six regularly tracked hospital-acquired infections. Contributing factors include volume surges, rising patient acuity, clinician burnout, staff shortages, and supply chain issues.
How can health systems course-correct to protect patients in the midst of a public health emergency as well as ensure that hospitalist teams have the resources and support they need? Organizations are often quick to dive into the weeds of quality metrics, care pathways, and EHR enhancements. However, I would like to propose a more holistic approach. To maintain safety and quality during challenging times and improve clinician experience as well as patient experience, I believe hospitals must focus on delivering personalized care that meets the needs of the whole patient.
I realize this may seem like a tall order for our short-staffed, resource-strained facilities. However, experience has convinced me that personalization yields the best long-term ROI. It does this not only by elevating the needs of patients but also by uplifting providers, a boost many of us could use after two years of adversity.
Here are four ways hospitals can personalize care to improve safety:
One way to encourage personalization is to standardize care by disease population. This means embedding evidence-based care pathways for heart failure, COPD, and other complex care or high-volume conditions. Such protocols increase efficiency, quality, and safety while reducing costs as well as ensuring that the whole care team is on the same page.
Now, you may ask, “How can standardized care be personal?” My answer: having a foundational standard to follow frees clinicians to give focus to individualizing patients’ treatments and experiences when warranted. By hardwiring the basics, we free up bandwidth to react to changes, dig deeper into questions, and truly address the needs of the whole patient. In other words, we practice the art as well as the science of medicine.
Poor communication is a major contributor to medical errors. Maybe a patient switched from an infusion to an oral medication, but the hospitalist on the next shift wasn’t notified. At best, there will now be a delay while the physician plays catch-up.
Leveraging technology while layering in standardized care will help many health systems enhance communication and continuity. Vituity is working to build patient dashboards that put real-time clinical information at our physicians’ fingertips. This data allows for informed decision-making in real time to deliver personalized adjustments to the standardized protocol, providing effective care and better continuity as well as making care safer and more patient centered.
New technologies enable hospitalists to care for patients almost anywhere—including at home. However, we often overlook the power of wearable and monitoring technology within the hospital setting.
My neurologist colleague Yafa Minazad, MD, believes that one day we will routinely monitor inpatients’ brain activity just as we do their heart rate and pulse oximetry. We don’t have the workforce to cover every hospital, yet a future where a single neurophysiologist could monitor several facilities from a regional command center is a reality, which can also be true for hospitalists monitoring complex patients at home after discharge.
Vituity and our innovation partners are working on new ways hospitals can leverage wearables to personalize care by checking sleep quality, measuring cognitive decline, counting down time-to-roll, or gauging readiness for therapy after surgery. Imagine getting notified that your patient is not keeping the optimal amount of sleep necessary for a successful recovery. When presented with this type of empirical evidence from a wearable device, appropriate action items can result that meet the exact needs of the patient and their goals.
For hospitals hyper focused on productivity and quality, culture may seem like a soft skill or a “nice-to-have.” However, all the previous suggestions require clinicians to work in teams while putting the patient at the center of care. For many organizations, this represents an enormous cultural shift with a keen focus on physician engagement.
This is where Vituity’s culture of teamwork and collaboration really shines. Our hospitalists are empowered to engage with healthcare systems to simplify care delivery and offer impactful solutions. We integrate with nursing staff, case management, and ancillary services to simplify processes and enhance the patient experience. The benefit to our physicians is having a true ownership stake in our practices, both in actuality as a 100% physician-owned organization and in the level of impact we have on our local hospitalist practices.