Smarter, More Connected Hospitals

Intelligent Workflow Automation Ushers In a New Era



About the Study

Zebra’s Global Healthcare Vision Study was conducted among more than 500 senior-level hospital leaders within the clinical, IT and procurement disciplines. The study’s goal was to better understand the role of technology in acute care hospitals. All data was collected and tabulated by third-party research firm Azure Knowledge Corporation, which surveyed respondents in Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America.


Unburdening the Delivery of Care

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to reverberate throughout the healthcare sector as it fights to overcome issues related to patient care, inventory and asset visibility, labor shortages, and workflow management. Many hospitals are increasingly turning to integrated technology solutions to cope with these new demands and better prepare for future uncertainties.


Enabling Collaborative Workflows

In the not-too-distant past, hospitals took a siloed approach to technology, focusing specifically on transforming individual tasks and workflows. Though hospitals realized tremendous benefits, healthcare technology applications were just beginning to emerge.

Early technology iterations promised greater control and efficiency, but frequently added clunky layers and complex processes that frustrated users. Instead of the integrated solutions hospitals were counting on, many were burdened with a tangled web of standalone systems that detracted from their goals, led to errors, and placed additional strains on healthcare professionals.

Today, acute care facilities realize the need to take a more holistic approach to technology investments, emphasizing unified solutions that make it easy to connect with colleagues, equipment and information instantly.

Forward-thinking clinicians and decision-makers recognize that bringing disparate functions of the hospital into a single cohesive system is the key to providing the finest patient care in the most operationally efficient way. Many are making a move to unified systems for greater visibility. Three technology-powered strategies are leading the way: real-time intelligence, intelligent workflow automation and healthcare-optimized mobility solutions.


Beyond the Bedside

Knowing the location and the status of assets, people and equipment is crucial to making smarter, in-themoment decisions. As the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) accelerates, more sophisticated technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID) and real-time location systems (RTLS) are rising to the top of hospitals’ wish lists. Key to their success is these technologies’ ability to bring more workflows and functions into an optimized information ecosystem.

Intelligent workforce automation is on the horizon and promises to have a significant impact on the future of healthcare. Hospitals continue to innovate patient care and increase operational intelligence by integrating visionary solutions like prescriptive analytics. Artificial intelligence (AI) also has the potential to improve outpatient care with more opportunities for remote consulting and diagnostics as the telehealth opportunity grows.

The new era of clinical mobility puts powerful devices into the hands of both clinical and support staff across the hospital. No longer confined to communications alone, devices and applications are evolving to meet the changing needs of the healthcare environment.


Hospitals Are Confronting Long-Standing Challenges

The incredible influx of patients and uncertainties around the coronavirus presented hospitals with unprecedented challenges. While many of the issues facing hospitals are not new, they quickly worsened as the pandemic ripped through communities, straining resources, underscoring inadequacies and highlighting shortcomings.

It is no surprise that inefficiencies throughout the hospital are among the top challenges facing both clinicians and executives, who have for many years operated under the goal of reducing costs whenever possible. As a result, minimizing waste, improving patient throughput and reducing clinical errors have plagued healthcare operations. Preventing the spread of infection is a perennial concern in the healthcare environment, though it has risen in relevance in the wake of the pandemic.


Hospitals Recognize Front-Line Workers Are Experiencing Fatigue and Burnout

The events of the pandemic have highlighted how heroic front-line healthcare workers are in their commitment to care for patients, with scores stretched beyond limits. With labor in short supply, nearly all staff are having to work longer hours and extra shifts. Approximately twothirds of clinicians and 69% of decision-makers agree that physicians and caregivers are overextended during their shifts. This has made employee well-being a pressing issue.

It isn’t just workers on the front lines of care bearing the brunt of increased demand, either. Over half of those surveyed report that their administrative staff is overburdened and unable to complete their work during their shift.

The pandemic pushed decades of innovation to occur seemingly overnight. Instead of turning away from technology, hospitals gravitated to solutions that helped them overcome challenges. Many now see technology as essential to improving operational efficiencies, reducing clinician burnout and developing an enhanced standard of care in the long term.


Clinical Mobility Gains Traction

Clinical mobility is defined as the use of mobile devices (such as handheld mobile computers and tablets) by physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals at the point of care. Hospitals first piloted clinical mobility with nurses at the patient’s bedside and then expanded usage across clinical and non-clinical disciplines as the benefits of mobile technology were realized.

The employment of purpose-built mobile devices at various points in the hospital has evolved along with this new approach to healthcare technology. Zebra’s last survey of the healthcare community in 2017 found that most mobility investments were focused on bedside nurses to provide access to electronic health records (EHR) and ease staff communications. Now, hospitals are looking to technology to help them manage the supply chain, locate critical equipment and assets, and orchestrate emergency and operating room logistics.


The Healthcare Environment Requires Performance Beyond That of a Consumer Smartphone

Almost half of the decision-makers surveyed say their facility provides purpose-built, hospital-owned devices explicitly intended for healthcare workers. Disinfectant-ready, durable and secure devices now rank No. 1 in mobile device usage over bring-your-own-device (BYOD) alternatives.

Healthcare mobility manufacturers are integrating essential new capabilities into the devices—like GPS locationing, barcode scanning, RFID readers and more—with the hospital experience in mind. Intuitive interfaces, durable design and streamlined applications that include realtime intelligence and tracking solutions can improve efficiency and help to minimize burnout—an important priority for hospitals.


Enabling Better Patient Care with Real-Time Intelligence

The pandemic highlighted the need to collect and analyze information as close to real time as possible. Real-time intelligence can help to heighten the quality of patient care and enhance outcomes. In improving operational efficiency, real-time information about the status and location of assets, equipment and supplies can help reduce costs and save precious time for hospital staff.

The more time hospital staff spend looking for medical equipment or supplies, the less time they have to devote to delivering quality patient care. Limited and inconsistent access to data remains a significant impediment to many hospitals. Up-to-the-minute information becomes even more critical in an unexpected and emerging situation—as most hospital staff found during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Power of Locationing Technologies

With locationing technologies, hospitals can achieve the visibility required to improve accountability, optimize patient throughput and heighten asset visibility by converting data into actionable insights. Using technology like RFID tags and readers, locationing solutions can identify, track, locate and monitor the status of every patient, staff member and asset.

About four in 10 executives say they are currently using locationing technologies across many areas of their respective hospitals. While patient monitoring and security lead among current use cases, decision-makers indicated that deployment over the next year would focus on improving patient flow and staff operational efficiency. For example, the system can measure workflow steps or time and motion activity to understand the movements of clinical and non-clinical staff members.


Easier Compliance

Healthcare is subject to changing regulations and stringent standards for quality control. Regulatory compliance plays a role in “greatly” accelerating locationing solution implementation for about four in 10 decision-makers surveyed.


Patient Expectations of Connectivity Advance Technology Usage

While we’re entering a new era of healthcare technology, we are also experiencing a new age of heightened patient expectations. Eighty-three percent of clinicians and 88% of decision-makers agree that patients expect increased visibility into their treatment plans and more control over their care.


How Technology Benefits Patients

Hospitals recognize that the right collaboration tools and healthcare applications can positively impact patient care. Both clinicians (80%) and decision-makers (87%) agree that the quality of patient care would improve if nurses, clinicians and non-clinical support staff had access to mobile devices and healthcare applications.


From Reactive to Predictive

Aided by technology solutions and increased connectivity, patient care is moving from manual and reactive processes to responsive and predictive systems. More predictive operations leverage visibility to assign the right tasks and equipment to the right person at the right time. This benefits staff by increasing efficiency while also avoiding misspent costs or time.


Streamlining Workflows Across Care Environments

Hospitals understand technology adoption increases efficiency and elevates patient care. Long faded are pen-and-paper manual solutions. And while many clinicians and decision-makers appreciate the transformative benefits technology provides, they also want a cohesive approach that eliminates information silos, enables smarter workflows, and enhances communications and collaboration.

Both clinicians and decision-makers are aware of the power of the right devices and applications to improve daily workflows across the hospital. Devices dedicated to connecting teams, or collecting and leveraging realtime data, were identified as the most beneficial to daily workflows.


The Future of Healthcare Is Here

A time of unprecedented challenges has inspired a new age of collaboration and creativity across hospitals, enabled by the power of technology. More data-led intelligence and streamlined workflows enable clinical and administrative support staff to deliver predictive rather than reactive care, while increasing agility for the hospital to respond to unexpected future events. Smart, connected hospitals are the future of healthcare.

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Smarter, More Connected Hospitals