5 Tips To Improve Nursing Facility Workflows

by | Jun 13, 2023 | Health Tech, SNF

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Clinicians at nursing facilities are busy – caring for patients, collaborating with other clinicians, completing documentation, doing administrative work, tracking down patient information- the list goes on. It’s important that their clinical workflows are efficient, and that they have processes and technology to support these workflows. This way they can spend less time on repetitive or unnecessary tasks and instead focus on their patients. Keep reading for five tips to improve nursing facility workflows. 

1.Use HIEs to get patient data

One study found that information sent from the hospital to a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) was delayed “sometimes” or “often” for over 50% of SNF-hospital pairs. Additionally, over 60% of post-acute care facilities rely on phone calls to transfer patient information or clinical details. This means that clinicians do not always have the complete (or any of the) patient chart when the patient arrives. So they can either delay care or provide care without all the information. 

HIEs, or health information exchanges, are electronic collections of health information that are securely shared among clinicians and health organizations. Clinicians at nursing facilities can use HIEs to get data from the patient’s previous healthcare encounters so that they can make the most informed decisions about the patient’s care. HIEs are often grouped by geographic location – such as HealthShare Exchange for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware – so check in your area to see what’s available. 

2. Shadow clinicians to better understand their workflows 

There is often a disconnect between what administrators believe a clinical workflow looks like and what it actually is like. Having administrators and other leaders shadow clinicians helps get everyone on the same page. This shadowing should be for a long enough time that administrators actually see the nursing facility workflows and not just what one patient encounter looks like. 

Then clinicians and administrators can map out current workflows and find things that are redundant or inefficient. They can work together to alter existing, or create new, policies and processes that improve clinician’s workflow. Additionally, they can discuss which technologies would help further optimize the workflow and make clinician’s work more efficient so they can spend more time focusing on their patients. 

3. Schedule times for communication

Communicating with the team may seem like something easy that people can just do when they have a minute. However, just because one clinician has a few minutes in between patients doesn’t mean the clinician they need to talk to has time. Additionally, if clinicians work different shifts, they may rush to share all the patient information in a few minutes before one clinician leaves and the other starts work. But rushing communication just doesn’t work, since up to 80% of medical errors involve communication errors. 

Scheduling time for different communication tasks improves communication and can improve the efficiency of nursing facility workflows. This could mean scheduling time for team huddles, handoffs, discharge planning, or just for the clinician to respond to emails or phone calls. Scheduling time to communicate means that different providers can all be focused on the same patient, and they have time to prepare in advance if they want to. This also ensures that there is ample time to communicate fully.

4. Use a shared task list 

Clinical teams have become larger and multidisciplinary. A patient may see physicians, nurses, therapists, pharmacists – the list goes on. Since there are so many people on a team, it may be ambiguous who is expected to do what task for the patient’s care. It may also be unclear when, or if, tasks have been completed. 

A shared task list allows the entire team to see what tasks are happening and which are done for the patient’s care. Task lists should allow users to tag others to specific tasks, set reminders for tasks, and see when tasks are completed and by whom. These task lists should update in real time, and be available to the entire multidisciplinary team, even if they use different health information systems. This helps keep the entire team on track for providing the best care for the patient. 

5. Have a process for patient education

Establishing a process for patient education at discharge can improve workflows. One study found that while over 90% of patients felt confident they understood their treatment plan, almost half didn’t actually understand it. This means that patients and their caregivers may call or send messages about the plan, and it takes time for clinicians to repeatedly review the patient chart and respond. 

There are different ways to improve patient education so they better understand their treatment plan. A SNF did an intervention on medication education, where they had nurses review medication with patients and their caregivers within three days of the patient’s admission, and then again before discharge. Patients’ understanding of their medications improved from 60% to 94% after the intervention. Other places have implemented a scheduled follow-up call with the patient within 72 hours of discharge, where the clinician can check in on the patient, ask how the patient is following their treatment plan, and answer any questions the patient has. These are just a few ways to improve education while also reducing the messages clinicians receive. 

Want to learn more about how CareAlign can improve nursing home workflows? Visit this page, or email us at info@carealign.ai