Imagine the hospital of the future… joined-up electronic records accessible to healthcare providers at the bedside, whatever bed patients happen to be in; patients able to choose their meals from a pre-vetted selection according to their preferences and nutritional needs; real-time feedback and data from patients and loved ones being used to constantly improve services and outcomes… sound too good to be true?
Too difficult a task?
The benefits of adopting new ways of working extend beyond simply financial – patient care and outcomes have been shown to improve when targeted technologies have been introduced. For this reason, concerns around the cost of retrofitting healthcare facilities and upskilling healthcare teams are misplaced.
In the UK, the Department of Health is spearheading research into the uptake of new technology, but in the interim, there are easy wins to be achieved – systems exist that are easy to integrate and yet support measureable improvements in services for healthcare providers, patients and their loved ones.
In many hospitals, bedside entertainment systems that deliver pay-on-demand television and communications services are configurable to offer access to electronic records and real-time meal ordering as well as the capturing and reporting of patient and visitor feedback.
Why invest in new systems?
According to a report published by Deloitte on behalf of Hospedia Clinical Access Service, the average UK hospital could save £60k per year from eliminating the use of paper patient records, plus another £335k per year of staff costs by avoiding handling, duplicating and searching for medical records – the equivalent of 14 members of staff per year. In a ‘do more with less’ culture, these are very real and significant savings.
The proof is in the pudding
It may seem unlikely that just introducing electronic meal ordering would deliver benefits to patients and hospitals, yet the opposite is true. Currently, time is spent distributing, collecting and processing forms, which costs £11.5k per year per hospital in the UK, with staff costs an additional £28.5k.
Poor meal-planning can also contribute to high levels of waste. Long ordering lead times mean food is delivered that is no longer suitable or not needed. Food waste in the UK’s NHS is estimated to cost over £27m per year, yet by simply digitizing the ordering system this could be cut by as much as 60%.
Meal ordering is not just a matter of process though – ensuring meals are suitable, tempting and delivered when required is a clinical matter. Over a third of patients admitted to acute care are malnourished, and patients at risk of malnutrition stay longer in hospital and have greater at-home care needs. Making meal ordering more closely tied to patient needs and preferences could generate significant improvements in cost and outcomes.
Change for the better
With easy-to-use interfaces familiar to patients and their loved ones, existing at-bedside terminals are also ideally placed to capture real-time feedback. Terminals can be placed in other hospital locations for ease, with all data analyzed on demand. Both patients and caregivers feel they have a voice and are able to directly communicate with decision makers, highlighting their in-care experiences. Clever hospital managers will be keen to understand the patient experience, and use this feedback to constantly improve care.
It is important that improvements to care are not delayed unnecessarily due to concerns around implementing new technologies. Making better use of existing systems can bring real benefits to patients and healthcare service providers.