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Healthcare Technology to Lean On

The healthcare sector has been leaning on technology in many ways over the last year. From QR codes to help with Covid-19 contact tracing to online prescriptions and Telehealth, technology has been a great support. But even before the pandemic, there was also a movement towards ‘lean healthcare’ design practices. Lean healthcare design aims to minimise waste in processes and procedures. Importantly, ideas from staff and frontline workers can provide rich fodder for improvements to safety, efficiency, profitability and patient experience for a leaner healthcare practice.

Healthcare design company Evoke Projects examines lean healthcare management and particularly the role that technology can play in its success.

Lean management objectives

Lean objectives within the healthcare design might include:

  • reduced paperwork
  • reduced waiting times
  • more efficient patient flow through the practice
  • not stocking unnecessary medications and supplies
  • giving time back to staff to interact with patients
  • creating time for staff to think about process improvements
  • removing repetition in form filling or data entry
  • avoiding re-admissions through efficient diagnosis and treatment
  • prevention of inpatient complications
  • treating the whole person in one healthcare fit-out including diagnosis, treatment and education.

Digital records in healthcare

Digitisation of a patient’s physical records is of course the first step for many practices towards lean healthcare design. My Health Record provided a new impetus for moving patient information online, and the government released a record of conformant software which steered practices towards systems that are compatible with national digital health records.

Patient engagement technology

Australian patient engagement technology systems AutoMed and HotDoc have integrated telehealth functionality plus other services such as appointment bookings, digital forms, patient recalls and scripts.  These systems reduce admin work and allow staff more time to interact with patients or think about process improvements for a leaner healthcare practice.

Reduced waiting times and better patient flow can also be achieved through technology; for example, mobile check-ins and late-running doctor notifications.

Avoiding re-admissions with wearable technology

Technology has bolstered the fight to prevent patient re-admissions. Wearable technology (e.g. ECG monitors, blood pressure, glucose measurement) for self-monitoring and clinician remote monitoring helps problems to be detected early. Fewer re-admissions is not only medically beneficial but also meets lean objectives.

The rise of artificial intelligence

Machine learning is a lean and scalable solution if it works well. Chatbots can help with booking appointments, checking symptoms, drug scheduling, medicine interactions and nutrition advice… the list is endless. Chatbots will become the first point of contact for many non-urgent medical interactions. Over time, the ability of AI to diagnose disease will increase dramatically.

Technology to visualise a lean healthcare fit-out

Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates – Atrius Health in Boston, USA is an example of a lean healthcare fit-out design. The medical fit-out is standardised with every treatment room having the same design. This means clinicians know where to find everything and re-stocking supplies is efficient.

Standardisation can work well, but it would be a risky proposition to design and build every room without testing it. Prior to construction, 3D visuals of every room in the healthcare design, as provided by Evoke Projects for healthcare fit-out clients, enables theories and workflows to be tested virtually before committing to the final healthcare design.

Selling lean methodologies

In an industry that is often about life and death, any discussion about efficiency can be viewed as dangerous cost-cutting. Technology provides an important tool in supporting lean healthcare methodologies, for example, usage history to back up decisions about which medicines and supplies to stock.

To discuss lean healthcare design and medical fit-outs, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.

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