Every healthcare organization can literally have thousands of important documents that are meant to shape the actions of its workforce. These minimally include policies and procedures, and they also include guidelines, protocols, checklists, supporting documentation like forms, etc. Managing policies and keeping them current are both critical activities to ensure the highest quality of care, but what good are policies and procedures if they are not easily accessed by team members involved in care delivery?
A 2010 HealthGrades study of patient safety incidents among Medicare patients found 958,202 incidents during the years 2006 through 2008, and one in ten patients who experienced one or more safety events died as a result.
Two of the most common events studied, decubitus ulcers (bed sores) and post-operative sepsis, generally result from the failure to follow approved procedures intended to prevent them, and prevention involves education as well as quick and easy access to documentation about relevant procedures. As a result, healthcare organizations must constantly strive to “shorten the distance” between a caregiver and the information they seek.
Document Centralization, Simplification is Key
Just as a spectrum of important reference documents exists within a healthcare organization, a spectrum of different computer skill levels also exists among caregivers and other team members within the same organization. This raises the importance of both centralizing the location of and simplifying access to the most current versions of applicable documents. Computer technology offers the dual promises of centralization and simplification, but it often fails to deliver on them.
Each moment spent on tasks that do not enhance the patient experience is a moment lost, and actions that are perceived by caregivers to stand in the way of care delivery are often skipped.
As it is now, nurses on the typical medical surgical floor in a hospital are only spending around 31% of their time in patient rooms according to a recent study by Kaiser Permanente.
Home grown applications meant to centralize documents often fail to provide quick access. Generic document management tools provide centralized control of different versions of documents, but they lack the caregiver’s perspective on when and how to access them. Technology solutions fail when they are not centered on a caregiver’s needs, limitations, and capabilities.
How You Can “Shorten the Distance”
Shortening the distance to important information involves several things. First, it requires a simple, familiar user interface that is easily understood by all levels of computer users. Second, it requires different approaches to document retrieval that leverage the way a caregiver knows any given document. Third, it requires that any document that applies to the caregiver is quickly and easily accessible whether it is a departmental document, a facility document, a health system document or a corporate document. Fourth, it requires standard organization and presentation of the different document types so that caregivers can quickly locate the information sought. Finally, it requires that only one version of a document can be accessed – the most current, approved version.
Quick and easy document access alone will not ensure the best clinical outcomes, but it is a key component of any quality strategy for healthcare. Consistent, high quality patient care requires upfront training, ongoing coaching, and instant access to reference documents when questions arise. People forget, and a healthcare organization must make it as easy as possible for caregivers to consult the right reference document when questions arise so that patient care is not left to chance. By shortening the distance between a caregiver and vital information, patients get the care they deserve and caregivers can do more of the job they love.