Survey: Point-of-care IT, communication systems hinder nurse workflow

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Incompatible hospital communications solutions are making it difficult for nurses to effectively communicate with patients and collaborate with care team members, based on the findings of a recent survey by healthcare consulting firm Spyglass Consulting Group.

According to the report, nurses carry multiple communications devices to address specific job functions and responsibilities; therefore, critical messages, non-critical messages and spam are frequently interspersed on the same or different devices making it difficult to filter, manage and prioritize communications from team members.

The telephone survey was conducted on more than 100 interviews with nurses working in acute care and home health nursing environments nationwide over a three-month period beginning June 2009.

The purpose of the interviews, according to the Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm, was to identify the needs and requirements for communications at point of care through discussions about existing workflow inefficiencies in communicating with colleagues and patients, current usage models for mobile communications devices and solutions and barriers for widespread mobile communications adoption.

The study’s findings revealed:

  • Wireless networks are not optimized to support nurses at point of care: Seventy-one percent of hospital-based nurses interviewed indicated their wireless networks were poorly designed resulting in coverage gaps, wireless interference and overloaded access points.
  • Hospitals are investing in point-of-care communications but deployments are limited: Sixty-six percent of hospital-based nurses interviewed reported their organizations had deployed voice over IP (VoIP)-based communications to provide nurses greater mobility to perform their jobs more effectively at point of care. Cost considerations have focused deployments on specific hospital departments and limited distribution of VoIP handsets to key nursing personnel.
  • VoIP communications can be disruptive at point of care: Hospital-based nurses interviewed thought VoIP communications can be disruptive at point of care for the nurse who receives phone calls from team members while performing patient procedures or treatments.
  • Nurses believed that point-of-care deployments require nursing involvement during the design phases of the IT project.

Hospital IT, concluded the study's authors, must collaborate with nursing staff to understand existing workflow inefficiencies and how wireless communications and mobile computing technology can be used to support new and existing processes at point of care.