While doctors and nurses seek to diagnose and cure the medical problems patients present in the hospital, an entire team of experts at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center is hard at work trying to identify and smooth out all of the little obstacles that can cause delays and frustrations over the course of a hospital stay.
Eric Blankenbaker is Director of the Information Technology Group at Spotsy Regional. Marie Hartman is Director of Advanced Clinicals. While Blankenbaker’s work focuses on sourcing and maintaining all of the hospital’s IT hardware and software, Hartman’s team trains staff and ensures that new technologies are optimally deployed and used at the hospital.
Both share the goal of keeping the healthcare experience as fluid and efficient as possible.
Advances are rapid
Just as technology is constantly bringing new efficiencies to our daily lives, advances in the way technology can improve the delivery of healthcare are moving at a rapid pace.
“There is always something new. There’s constant change for the positive here at Spotsy,” Blankenbaker said. “It’s a constant effort to find places where we can save that extra second or minute, try to reduce some risk, or whatever it may be.”
Late last year, Spotsylvania Regional went live with iMobile, a secure instant-messaging platform that allows nurses, physicians and others at the hospital to contact each other much more quickly than the traditional system of calling a desk, waiting on hold and having to track someone down.
The technology is also used at other properties of HCA Healthcare, Spotsylvania Regional’s parent company, and one staff member reported that it has reduced the time it takes to communicate information.
That can mean the world to a patient waiting to be discharged, or in a situation where quicker treatment can produce a better outcome.
“It’s instant communication among nurses, physicians—everybody,” Blankenbaker said.
He points out other ways that recent technology upgrades have improved the delivery of care. For example, every room at Spotsylvania Regional is equipped with computers known as “thin clients,” or virtual desktops that are connected to the hospital’s network.
This means that when a staff member comes in to work with a patient, he or she only needs to tap their badge to gain immediate access to the patient information and electronic workspace they’ll need during their interaction. This eliminates the lag time it once took to log in to a traditional computer every time a caregiver entered a new room.
“That was taking time away from the patient,” Blankenbaker said. “With thin clients, they just tap in and they are ready to go. There is no wait.”
Information is precious
The flow of information is key to good healthcare, something Hartman learned when she started her career 12 years ago as a nurse. At that time, the hospital where she worked still kept records on paper.
It was immediately clear to Hartman that there was a better way.
“That is what first drew me into nursing informatics,” she said. She recently earned her doctorate in nursing, and both her graduate work and her daily experience at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center have shown her how important it is to make sure medical caregivers have the most up-to-date information in a format they can easily access.
So many of the programs she and Blankenbaker have worked to launch at the hospital advance this goal, such as a secure cloud-based platform that allows physicians to safely access and work with patient records from anywhere.
Using data to improve the patient experience
Other advancements focus on making life easier for hospital visitors.
The operating waiting rooms at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center are equipped with smart boards that display patients’ status as they progress through surgery.
“Instead of having to constantly ask the nurse at the desk what’s going on, family members can now see it on the board,” Blankenbaker said.
And anyone who has ever seen Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center’s I-95 billboard is familiar with what is possibly the most prominent way the hospital uses data analytics to better inform patients—the real-time display of Emergency Room wait times.
This number is an average of the wait time that every single visitor experiences, from when they enter the Emergency Room to when they see a physician. While the Emergency Department director tracks these metrics by patient to ensure nobody has an unreasonable delay, the average has become a useful number to share with the public.
Hartman points out that the wait time data is only one of many instances of how Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and HCA Healthcare are constantly trying to use data analytics to improve health outcomes and the overall experience for patients.
“It is reassuring to know that the hospital is part of a larger group of facilities that puts importance on this data and uses it to inform the care of the next patient, and to always be growing and learning,” she said.