By Dr. Will O’Connor, chief medical information officer, TigerConnect.
The pandemic is highlighting how difficulties with technology are stressing out healthcare employees and negatively affecting the quality of care. It’s a problematic situation, though in truth, it’s only the latest in a long history of tech devices impairing the delivery of healthcare.
Even in 1980, the movie “Caddyshack” had a character literally named “Dr. Beeper.” As the troubles mount, though, it’s an opportune moment to examine the underlying causes of this problem and glimpse at possible solutions.
Use of obsolete communication devices leads to breakdowns in collaboration between care team members, allied health service providers, and patients. It is a source of frustration and sub-optimal clinical and financial outcomes. In a recent survey we conducted, 53% of care team members said they experienced communication disconnects that affected patients at least once a week. For 12%, it’s a daily experience. Half the respondents felt that a patient’s inability to communicate with a doctor, outside of a visit, was the most frustrating aspect of a hospital stay.
Why is this happening? At the device level, care team members are not provided with equipment that enables them to collaborate effectively. While use of pagers is declining, now employed by about 49% of hospitals, healthcare still outpaces other industries in use of this antiquated technology. In our research, 47% of caregivers perceived that healthcare was either “somewhat behind” or “extremely behind” other industries in adoption of modern communication technology.
Today’s nurses may be carrying up to three pagers. They receive so many alerts that they have trouble separating the signal from the noise—contributing to “alarm fatigue” that is bad for morale and patient care. Faxes, emails and whiteboards continue to abound.