Savings in time and improved efficiency are the biggest gains

Ascom has recently launched Ascom Myco, a new solution for integrated workflow intelligence in healthcare. In this interview, Nick Guldemond, Associate Professor, University Medical Centre Utrecht, discusses the importance of intelligent and efficient workflow in the hospital setting and Roel Ottink, Director Product Management and Marketing, Ascom, explains how the Ascom Myco is designed to optimise workflow around nurses and patients.

Why is clinical workflow important?

NG. Healthcare is one of the most complex organisational systems, including operational issues, financial issues, information flows, logistics and planning of staff. In the present situation, but it will be even more severe in the future, there is a lack of resources in terms of money and people, while at the same time there is increasing demand for care and for increasing quality. This means healthcare systems have to constantly optimize the efficiency of their organisations.

What are the key features of efficient clinical workflow?

NG. In an ideal situation, everything is optimised to provide added value, or outcomes, for the patient. Every action and all resources have to be organised to improve outcomes, providing the best quality care, timely delivered and evidence based. Looking at the workflow process, there are tasks such as administration and transportation – which has physical and logistical issues, for instance getting medication from location A to B, or information files from location A to B, food and so on. There is also an intense information exchange, which is often related to teamwork and informing others. A lot of time is wasted when exchanging information, which has a relatively easy solution by using digital systems and mobile communication devices in the different departments.

How can workflow in hospitals be improved?

NG. Information has to be logically and efficiently coupled with actions of people with different expertise and skills. This is also the same for products or equipment. So in a dashboard-managed care system, ideally you have available all the information about equipment, staff, patients, where they physically are, what their status is, how you can allocate tasks, responsibilities and actions for the different elements in the workflow. Mobile technology platforms and devices, such as the Ascom Myco, integrate all functionalities to deal with these challenges.

What are the main features of Ascom Myco that improve workflow?

RO. Ascom focus on three different areas within the healthcare segment; to reduce alarm fatigue, mobilize information and improve workflows. The Ascom Myco solution plays an important role in this together with our software UNITE, services and the ability to integrate with other hospital systems and medical devices. The patient-centric software allows a nurse to quickly and efficiently view alerts from the patients assigned to her. She is only sent the relevant information, which reduces alarm fatigue and information overload. Second, the system integrates with patient monitors, nurse call systems, lab, radiology, and EMR systems, so that the nurse can receive and retrieve all relevant information on the move. A third feature is barcode scanning for secure, efficient and easy matching of the right patient to the right information, such as prescribed medications or blood administration, without having to type in the patient's information. 

How does carrying 'a gadget' around help rather than hinder the nurse's role in patient workflow?

RO. The nurse has to carry some form of device for efficient communications. Many nurses have a simple pager that just bleeps to say something has happened without saying what, so they have to find a fixed telephone to find out why. More advanced devices are large, bulky and heavy, so they can't fit in a pocket, and don't have a clip. We recognised that the carrying aspect is very important so the Ascom Myco has been optimised for size and weight to fit comfortably in a pocket and securely, by using a specially designed clip. The feedback we have received so far is very good.

Are these improvements a "one-off" or can the Ascom Myco help healthcare organisations target continuous improvements?

RO. Ascom Myco has been created as the ideal platform for integration and application development. Since new integrations and applications are expected to appear on a continuous basis this will also lead to continuous improvements in healthcare workflows. Ascom Myco uses the Android operating system like many smartphones, so it is easily programmable and can link to other applications. We receive enquiries about apps on a daily basis and have created a support system to facilitate the development, certification and handling of apps in order to create a professional eco system of applications around Ascom Myco. 

What are the most important returns on investment from using the system?

RO. The biggest returns are from savings in time, improvement in efficiency, and the reduction in potentially costly errors. The improved information flow will also reduce the stress on nurses and give them more time to provide relaxed care to patients, which will lead to more patient satisfaction. These returns will lead to better outcomes and make the hospital more attractive to patients.