Home » Time Capsule » Currently Reading:

Time Capsule: If Nurse Shortages Require a 50 Percent Labor Reduction, What Technology Will You Install (or De-Install)?

September 30, 2012 Time Capsule No Comments

I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).

I wrote this piece in December 2007.

If Nurse Shortages Require a 50 Percent Labor Reduction, What Technology Will You Install (or De-Install)?
By Mr. HIStalk

mrhmedium 

The recent CDW Healthcare nurse survey about IT is both fascinating and sobering. Nurses are too busy with patient care to get application training or participate in IT projects. They continue to believe that IT can improve their jobs, even though current systems involve frustrating duplication. They also think that applications bought on their behalf are ineffective and unreliable.

“Nursing systems” really aren’t that at all. They are really “systems to get nursing to do stuff that someone else wants.” Electronic charting, medication administration, order entry, bedside barcoding, and patient assessment: none of these save nurse time. They may have an impact on quality (slight or otherwise) and they may create an impressive-looking electronic record for other people to read. What they don’t do is make it easier for nurses to finish their work by shift’s end.

Here’s an exercise to ponder. The hospital CEO comes to you and says, “Mr. or Ms. CIO, our RN shortage is serious this time. There’s no solution in sight. We have no choice but to use just half the nursing hours we have available today. You heard me right — I said half. Quality cannot suffer. You have an unlimited budget to implement whatever technology you can find that will deliver that result. Do that and you’ll get a nice bonus — I’ll let you keep your job.”

Let’s say you receive that ultimatum. Would you recommend clinical documentation systems or bedside barcoding as a way to survive on 50 percent fewer nursing hours? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t. So what would you recommend?

You’d first need to find out how nurses spend their time. That’s a simple observation study, easily done by data-driven IT types, engineers, or quality experts.

Then, you’d push tasks that add minimal value down the food chain to cheaper and more readily available employees. That assumes you have those, of course. Many hospitals inexplicably got rid of LPNs and nurse aides years ago, using expensive and hard-to-find RNs to pass meal trays and give baths. Didn’t all those hospital suits learn anything about labor management in their MBA programs?

Then, you’d automate where you could to improve efficiency. Buy more PCs and Pyxis machines so nurses don’t wait in line. Provide portable communications devices. Have all drugs and supplies delivered to an in-room cabinet for each patient. Let someone else reconcile narcotics counts and give report. Integrate nurse call systems with other communications.

Maybe you’d even de-install some of those applications that quietly eat up nurse time because of poor design. Watch the kid at McDonald’s ring up your hamburger. Now imagine what the screen would look like if your current clinical systems vendor designed it. Real estate sales would skyrocket because every McDonald’s would need another mile of drive-through lane to hold the angrily waiting customers.

Maybe the RN shortage isn’t that severe at your place (so far, anyway). Still, you should make sure that IT systems aren’t contributing to it. When installing new systems, practice “first do no harm”: will they require more nurse time? Any answer other than “no” is unacceptable. And if you’re convinced that technology saves time, this is a great opportunity to prove it.

View/Print Text Only View/Print Text Only


HIStalk Featured Sponsors

     







Subscribe to Updates

Search


Loading

Text Ads


Report News and Rumors

No title

Anonymous online form
E-mail
Rumor line: 801.HIT.NEWS

Tweets

Archives

Founding Sponsors


 

Platinum Sponsors


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Sponsors


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments

  • HIT Girl: Amazingly, he's the CEO of a patient-payment company. You'd think he'd have bothered to pop the hood on the whole billi...
  • Johnny B: ACP paper - I don't know that providers will ever be able to come to a consensus on how they want to document. Some want...
  • FLPoggio: What this piece totally ignores is that you and the provider (roofer) dealt directly with each other. Now what if you ha...
  • AC: That's not an apt comparison. Imagine instead if while the roofer was doing his thing, another random roofer dropped by ...
  • HIT Girl: I've worked in EHR design & support for the last 14 years or so, and when I was hospitalized in I think 2007 I got m...

Sponsor Quick Links