A remote worker smiles as she enjoys the benefits of remote work solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home.

11 Reasons to Enable Healthcare Staff to Work from Home

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

11 Reasons to Enable Healthcare Staff to Work from Home

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Not all healthcare employees need to be on site to complete their work. When you enable healthcare staff to work from home, your employees, organization, and community will benefit!

A remote worker smiles as she enjoys the benefits of remote work solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home.

Everyone benefits when you implement remote work solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home.


Here are 11 reasons why you should implement solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home:


1.) Limit the number of people on sitethe COVID-19 crisis has caused numerous organizations to reassess how many employees are actually necessary to keep on site. Moving workers off site now will help protect patients and employees from the current coronavirus; and, it will establish a more proactive approach for any future public health emergencies by ensuring staff who can work from home are already set up to do so when another new disease strikes.

2.) Maintain HIPAA-compliancethe healthcare industry has been reluctant to offer remote work opportunities due to concerns over PHI security. HealthWare’s remote work solutions enable healthcare staff to work from home by providing controlled access to PHI, encryption of all information at all times, complete audit trails, and full transparency for management.

3.) Increase productivity many studies demonstrate the positive effects of working from home on productivity. For example, a Stanford paper reported a 13% performance increase when employees switched to remote work and Airtasker’s survey of 1,004 full-time employees found that on average, remote workers put in 1.4 more days of work each month (16.8 more days each year) than those working in an office. Plus, remote work has the potential to facilitate a more flexible schedule, so many remote workers can choose to accomplish some of their work outside of the typical “9 to 5” business hours if they feel more motivated in the early morning or late at night, with the result of producing higher quality work. (Our remote work solutions provide management with productivity monitoring for real-time oversight, so you can really be certain your remote workers are delivering.)

4.) Expand your pool of job applicantsif your employees can work from home, you aren’t limited to hiring workers who live within commuting distance of your facilities.

5.) Recruit top talentin addition to more potential candidates, you’ll also attract the best contenders. According to Indeed’s 2018 survey, an organization’s remote work policy is an important factor for 47% of employees in their job search and 40% would even consider taking a pay cut if it meant they could work from home. And if you can offer a work from home incentive, you’ll especially appeal to Gen Z and Millennial healthcare employees who have joined or are entering the workforce at a time when remote work opportunities are increasingly common.

6.) Reduce your footprintcommuting and company offices are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Moving some of your healthcare staff off site will make a significantly positive environmental impact. These remote workers’ homes will double as their office space and they will travel fewer miles, use less gas and oil, and reduce their contributions to air pollution.

7.) Keep workers healthyworking remotely means your teams won’t be exposed to workplace (or public transportation) germs. This is especially enticing for employees who work in the healthcare field and would otherwise be vulnerable to germs from both colleagues and ailing patients. And on top of the physical health advantages, remote workers experience mental health benefits related to stress (e.g. no commute/traffic, more free time, better work/life balance). Physically and mentally healthy employees can better concentrate to produce superior work.

8.) Decrease sick days and absencesemployees are not only less vulnerable to getting sick in the first place when they work remotely, but they’re also more apt to work through a mild cold or sickness if they can do so in the comfort of their own home. In fact, the reason some employees may choose to call in when sick is not because they don’t feel up to working, but simply to avoid spreading the illness to their coworkers – a concern that remote workers don’t have to worry about!

9.) Improve employee satisfaction and retentionemployees who enjoy the perks of remote work will be more satisfied, more loyal to your organization, and less inclined to leave their positions.

10.) Save moneycost savings come in the form of less office space/equipment/supplies, reduced turnover, fewer absences, increased productivity, and recruitment of better talent, to name just a few areas in which you’ll see major returns on investment. (We estimate savings of $10,000 per year per worker when you employ our remote work solutions.)

11.) Remote work is the futurebetween 2005 and 2017, remote work increased by 159% in the United States. A recent study projects that 73% of all teams will include remote workers by 2028.

The time has come to embrace work from home solutions in order to remain competitive in the eyes of prospective employees – you simply can’t afford to resist this inevitable change to the workforce.

Remote Work Solutions for Healthcare


Which parts of your operation would you move off site if you could? HealthWare Systems can analyze your paper and fax-based workflows and offer alternative solutions that enable healthcare staff to work from home in a HIPAA-compliant, secure environment.

Schedule a phone consultation and we’ll help you determine how you can enable healthcare staff to work from home, and which departments to target, so you can start reaping the benefits listed above as soon as possible.


By Stephanie Salmich

Physicians hold a thumbs up sign for solutions that can streamline prior authorizations.

Streamline Prior Authorizations with a Pre-Arrival Workflow Solution

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

Streamline Prior Authorizations with a Pre-Arrival Workflow Solution

Posted on Monday, July 1, 2019

The results of a recent survey conducted by the American Medical Association illustrate the importance of solutions that can streamline prior authorizations.


The 2018 AMA Prior Authorization Physician Survey found the following:

  • 91% The percentage of physicians who say the prior authorization process postpones patients’ access to necessary care.
  • 28% The percentage of physicians who say the prior authorization process has resulted in a serious adverse event for their patients (e.g., “death, hospitalization, disability/permanent bodily damage, or other life-threatening event”).
  • 86% The percentage of physicians who describe prior authorization burdens as high or extremely high.
  • Almost 2 Business Days (14.9 hours) The average length of physician/staff time that is devoted to prior authorization requirements per physician per week.
  • 36% The percentage of physicians who have employees who work solely on prior authorization tasks.

Clearly, health systems face many challenges related to preauthorization.  Patient safety is compromised when care is delayed.  Patient and physician satisfaction are at risk as patients endure frustrating waits for treatment and physicians deal with administrative duties that disengage them from their medical work.

And not only can each prior authorization be costly, but excess costs are also incurred in the forms of extra clerical staff and rework when prior authorizations are denied and must be resubmitted.


According to CAQH CORE, 88 percent of prior authorizations are completed either partially or completely manually; and, the majority of preauthorization issues are related to manual processes.

A pre-arrival workflow solution can automate manual processes and streamline prior authorizations.


With a pre-arrival workflow solution that can streamline prior authorizations, you can address the issues mentioned above:
Physicians hold a thumbs up sign for solutions that can streamline prior authorizations.

A pre-arrival workflow solution can streamline prior authorizations and improve staff and physician satisfaction.


Support your physicians by utilizing solutions that make their jobs easier.  Implementing time-savers for physicians can go a long way toward reducing physician burnout, which is often related to stressful and time-consuming administrative workloads.

In addition to increasing physician and employee satisfaction, a pre-arrival workflow solution will improve your revenue cycle and patients’ access to care they need.

Hospitals can no longer afford to delay employing solutions that will streamline prior authorizations and benefit all stakeholders in their organizations.


By Stephanie Salmich

A daughter and mother celebrate the health benefits of a clean home.

Spring Cleaning! The Health Benefits of a Clean Home

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

Spring Cleaning! The Health Benefits of a Clean Home

Posted on Monday, April 1, 2019

Spring cleaning season is here!  This is a great time to educate your patients on the health benefits of a clean home and encourage them in their spring cleaning goals.

A daughter and mother celebrate the health benefits of a clean home.

The health benefits of a clean home are both mental and physical.


Promote the Health Benefits of a Clean Home

A clean home is beneficial to both your patients’ physical and mental health!


Here are a few of the health benefits of a clean home:

Improves respiration – Common asthma triggers include dust, pet dander, mold, and mildew.  Decluttering, dusting, and vacuuming can all help asthma and allergy symptoms.

Prevents sickness – In order to stop the spread of an illness after someone in their home has been sick, it’s important that patients thoroughly clean and disinfect (especially areas of the house that are frequently touched, like doorknobs, counters, and cellphones).

Better sleep – A National Sleep Foundation Bedroom Poll found that “respondents who say they make their bed every day are 19% more likely to say they get a good night’s sleep every night than those who don’t.”  Furthermore, at least two thirds of respondents believed clean, allergen-free air and a clean bedroom are important for a good night’s sleep and 71% of respondents said “they get a more comfortable night’s sleep on sheets with a fresh scent.”

Enhances concentration – Both children and adults can have trouble focusing on tasks when surrounded by clutter and mess.

Boosts mood – A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin analyzed couples’ descriptions of their homes.  Women who described their homes as “stressful” (cluttered, with unfinished projects) “had increased depressed mood over the course of the day.”  Women who described their homes as “restorative” “had decreased depressed mood over the day.”

Lowers stress – Not only can having a clean home lower stress, but so can the cleaning process itself.  Some people practice meditation or gratitude exercises while cleaning.  Cleaning can also give us a sense of control over our environment.  Plus, cleaning is a physical activity, which is a de-stressor.

Provides exercise – While not recommended as a patient’s only form of physical activity, household chores can burn some extra calories and even stretch and tone muscles.

Prevents injuries – According to the CDC, more than one out of four people aged 65 and older falls each year and one out of five falls results in serious injury.  Patients can reduce some risk factors by keeping floors and stairs clear of clutter.

Provide Patient Education for Safe Spring Cleaning

Along with the health benefits of a clean home, advise your patients about cleaning safety.  Unsafe cleaning practices can lead to health risks and injury.

For example, direct them to guidelines for poison prevention (particularly related to ventilation and handling and storage of cleaning products that contain chemicals).  Or, perhaps your doctors have recommendations for chemical-free products.

Other cleaning safety considerations include proper indoor and outdoor ladder usage and appropriate disposal of expired items (such as paint, medicine, and batteries).

Equipped with this knowledge, your patients can pursue the health benefits of a clean home without putting patient safety at risk.


The social determinants of health include patient housing and living conditions.  One way to address these is to arm your patients with the knowledge they need to keep their homes safe and clean.

Many of us are extra motivated to get our homes in order when spring cleaning season rolls around.  Foster this enthusiasm in your patients now, but encourage them to also maintain adequate cleaning (and cleaning safety!) habits throughout the year.  Your patients will be grateful to enjoy the health benefits of a clean home all year round, and you can enjoy the benefits of better health outcomes for patients at your facility.


By Stephanie Salmich

The effects of nurse burnout: A nurse crossing her arms experiences nurse burnout.

The Effects of Nurse Burnout

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

The Effects of Nurse Burnout

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The effects of nurse burnout: A nurse crossing her arms experiences nurse burnout.

The effects of nurse burnout reach your nurses, patients, and bottom line.

The effects of nurse burnout are far-reaching.  Everyone, from your patients and their families to your nurses and the entire facility, can be affected by nurse burnout.


The Effects of Nurse Burnout Reach Your Nurses, Patients, and Bottom Line…


Here are some of the effects of nurse burnout:

Nurse Well-Being Nurse burnout can lead to feelings of dread about work, mental and physical exhaustion, sleep issues, and depression for your nurses.  The effects of nurse burnout also include compassion fatigue, causing your nurses to disengage from your patients.

Patient & Family Satisfaction Interactions between your nurses and patients and their family members are crucial to the patient experience and patient satisfaction scores.

A study published in the journal Medical Care found the following relationship between nurse work environment, nurse burnout, and patient satisfaction with nursing care:

“Patients cared for on units that nurses characterized as having adequate staff, good administrative support for nursing care, and good relations between doctors and nurses were more than twice likely as other patients to report high satisfaction with their care, and their nurses reported significantly lower burnout. The overall level of nurse burnout on hospital units also affected patient satisfaction.”

Patient Safety Clinicians suffering from burnout may be less motivated and/or may experience lower cognitive functioning due to emotional exhaustion, putting patient safety at risk.

An article published in the American Journal of Infection Control found a significant association between nurse burnout and UTIs and surgical site infection.  According to the researchers, “hospitals in which burnout was reduced by 30% had a total of 6,239 fewer infections, for an annual cost saving of up to $68 million.”

Reducing nurse burnout can decrease the likelihood of medical errors and improve patient safety at your facility.

Turnover & Nursing Shortage According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, factors contributing to the national nursing shortage include insufficient nursing school enrollment and faculty, high retirement numbers, the aging population’s need for more healthcare workers, and high turnover/number of nurses leaving the profession altogether.

Almost 1 in 5 new nurses leaves his/her first job within the first year, and about 1 in 3 leaves within the second year.  In a national study conducted by RNnetwork, “half of the nurses surveyed have considered leaving nursing.”  According to the survey, “the number one reason for wanting to leave is feeling overworked (27 percent), followed by not enjoying their job anymore (16 percent) and spending too much time on paperwork (15 percent).”

Unfortunately, there is a cyclical relationship at work here: the national nursing shortage increases nurse burnout for those who are working in the profession as their workloads consequently grow.


As you can see, the effects of nurse burnout have a critical impact on nurse well-being, patient satisfaction, patient safety, and the national nursing shortage.  Please read our next post on how to prevent and address nurse burnout to ensure your health system can avoid the dire effects of nurse burnout mentioned above.


By Stephanie Salmich

Reducing patient uncertainty: Healthcare providers connect puzzle pieces.

Reducing Patient Uncertainty: 6 Areas to Address

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

Reducing Patient Uncertainty: 6 Areas to Address

Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Reducing patient uncertainty should be a high priority item for healthcare providers.  Feelings of uncertainty can affect the patient experience and lower patient satisfaction.

Most of us are uncomfortable with uncertainty and many visits to healthcare facilities are made with the purpose of diminishing it.  Patients seek out your facility hoping to find answers to health questions; the last thing they are looking for is even more confusion.

Reducing patient uncertainty: Healthcare providers connect puzzle pieces.

Reducing patient uncertainty can vastly improve the patient experience.

Below are 6 areas that can either increase or decrease patient uncertainty.
By reducing patient uncertainty through addressing these areas, providers can greatly improve the patient experience:

1. – Online Presence:

A strong online presence and positive online reviews can aid in reducing patient uncertainty by helping patients become more familiar with your facility and organization before they even visit.  Utilize your website and social media accounts to their full advantage.

For example, a study published in the journal Health Communication found that video biographies for primary care physicians were more effective in reducing patient uncertainty than the standard text biographies that most providers post on their websites.

2. – Wayfinding:

Navigating their way around an unfamiliar building can increase patients’ anxiety over their hospital visit.  Wayfinding solutions (such as digital signage, mobile apps that guide patients around your campus, and touchscreen kiosks that print wayfinding maps) can ensure that patients and their visitors don’t get lost, all while reducing patient uncertainty about finding their destination.

3. – The Waiting Room:

The waiting room offers numerous opportunities for reducing patient uncertainty surrounding many topics.  In the waiting room, uncertainty about wait times can be just as frustrating as the actual waiting.  Patients’ family members face uncertainty as well, about how long they’ll be waiting, about the details of a procedure, and about the outcome for their family member.

A patient tracking board and real-time text updates can be instrumental in reducing patient uncertainty and lowering waiting room anxiety for patients’ family members.  Patients can better gauge how long they’ll be waiting, and patients’ family members know their loved one’s status at each stage (e.g. “in prep,” “in surgery,” “in recovery”) of the encounter.

4. – Interoperability:

Patients should not have to face uncertainty regarding whether their doctor has all the information he/she needs to properly care for them.  Yet, only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care according to research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

With odds like these, patient uncertainty about transfer of medical records or if a physician’s order/referral will be received in time is warranted.  Reducing patient uncertainty can be accomplished by ensuring your facility can electronically send, receive, find, and integrate/use all necessary health information.

5. – The Discharge Process:

Researchers have created a new tool called the Uncertainty Scale to measure patient uncertainty and predict hospital readmissions.  Some of the major themes they’ve found in their work include patients’:

  • “Lack of clarity regarding self-management, such that patients are unsure how to deal with symptoms at home”
  • “Lack of self-efficacy, manifesting as patients not knowing where to go for help for certain symptoms”
  • “Lack of clarity about the decision to seek care, meaning that patients do not know which symptoms are serious enough to warrant seeing a health professional”

Improving patient education during the discharge process can help in reducing patient uncertainty about self-care, where to seek help, and when it is necessary to seek help, as well as lower readmission rates.

6. – Payments:

Patients want price transparency and as wise healthcare consumers, they have the right to be informed about the use of their healthcare dollars.  Confusion about health insurance and how much money they owe for health services, even after they’ve received a bill, is a source of patient uncertainty.  Patients may have great clinical outcomes, yet, if they are surprised when the bill is larger than expected, their satisfaction surveys will reflect low scores.

Providing estimates for out-of-pocket costs upfront, helping patients with insurance issues, preventing insurance-related errors, and helping patients identify and apply for financial assistance opportunities can all help in reducing patient uncertainty about cost.


Uncertainty is unfortunately a common experience in healthcare for those with undiagnosed conditions and symptoms for which an explanation is unclear.  The six areas outlined here are within your control; by reducing patient uncertainty in these areas, your facility can greatly improve the patient experience.


By Stephanie Salmich

A nurse speaks with an elderly patient: Directing assistance toward at-risk patients can reduce hospital readmission rates.

8 Ways to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

8 Ways to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2018

There are many ways facilities can reduce hospital readmission rates while producing better health outcomes for patients and avoiding CMS reimbursement reductions.  As the study “Reducing Hospital Readmission: Current Strategies and Future Directions,” published in the Annual Review of Medicine, aptly recommends, these strategies to reduce hospital readmission rates are best used in conjunction:

“The effect of interventions on readmission rates is related to the number of components implemented, whereas single-component interventions are unlikely to reduce readmissions significantly.”

Here are 8 ways to reduce hospital readmission rates at your facility:


A nurse speaks with an elderly patient: Directing assistance toward at-risk patients can reduce hospital readmission rates.

Directing assistance toward at-risk patients can reduce hospital readmission rates.

1. – Focus on delivering quality care.  Ensure that avoidable readmissions are not due to preventable errors on the part of your facility.

2. – Determine the cause of readmission.  As RevCycleIntelligence states, “Understanding why a patient returns to the hospital after discharge is key to preventing readmissions and solving challenges of follow-up care.”  Is the reason for readmission condition-related or are other factors at play (see #3)?  Was the hospital readmission unnecessary and/or preventable?

3. – Screen for at-risk patients.  Certain conditions, such as heart failure and pneumonia, have higher hospital readmission ratesSocial factors that can affect hospital readmission include housing instability, tobacco use, alcohol/drug abuse, malnutrition and access to nutritious food, access to reliable transportation, health literacy, social support, language barriers, and psychiatric disease.  Assistance may be best directed toward patients most vulnerable to readmission.

4. – Address no-show appointment issues to encourage at-risk patients to keep the follow-up appointments that may lower their chances of hospital readmission.

5. – Improve the discharge process.  Patients and their caregivers face much uncertainty upon leaving the safety net of the hospital environment.  Take the time to thoroughly explain instructions for at-home care before they are discharged; follow-up with phone calls or home visits to again confirm their understanding and give them an opportunity to ask questions.

6. – Take advantage of telehealth opportunities.  Telehealth devices enable clinicians to monitor discharged patients’ health at home and can help reduce patients’ uncertainty about whether or not they need to revisit the hospital.

7. – Improve the transition process between facilities.  Just as when a patient is moved from the hospital to home, moving from one facility to another can result in poor health outcomes and/or readmission if the transition does not go well.  Follow one of the transitions of care models, many of which employ a care team to coordinate effective transitions and have been proven to reduce hospital readmission rates.

8. – Establish true interoperability.  Better communication (in the form of successfully and consistently electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating/using data) is needed between facilities for proper care transition (and even across departments within the same facility).  Without it we risk patient safety and increase the likelihood for medical errors that affect readmission rates, such as adverse drug events due to inaccurate medication reconciliation.

Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates with a Multi-Strategy Approach


Again, the most successful efforts to reduce hospital readmission rates and create better health outcomes will utilize numerous strategies.  As the study “Reducing Hospital Readmission” in the Annual Review of Medicine concluded:

“Effective interventions share certain features: having multiple components that span both inpatient and outpatient settings and delivery by dedicated transitional care personnel. New evidence suggests that the number of components in a care transitions intervention is significantly related to its effectiveness . . . which strengthens the argument for more robust interventions.”


By Stephanie Salmich

A doctor and patients smile behind the blog’s title: ADDRESS PATIENT TRANSPORTATION NEEDS TO CREATE BETTER HEALTH OUTCOMES.

Address Patient Transportation Needs to Create Better Health Outcomes

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

Address Patient Transportation Needs to Create Better Health Outcomes

Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Patient transportation needs can critically affect access to care and health outcomes; approximately 3.6 million Americans miss or postpone medical care due to transportation issues.

Improved access to transportation benefits patients, health facilities, and communities.  Health systems that address patient transportation needs are advocates for their patients, produce better health outcomes, lower readmission rates, reduce no-show appointments, and improve the general health of the community.

Efforts should begin with screening patients to determine their need/eligibility for transportation or other financial assistance.


Here are some specific ways your facility can then help those patients and create better health outcomes:


A doctor and patients smile behind the blog’s title: ADDRESS PATIENT TRANSPORTATION NEEDS TO CREATE BETTER HEALTH OUTCOMES.

Educate Patients About Transportation Options


Compile a resource list of patient transportation options available in your area.  For example, many senior centers and churches provide free or low-cost transportation and Pace offers a “Call-n-Ride” service in the Chicago suburbs for as little as $2.00.  What affordable local transportation options could you suggest to your patients?

Promote patient transportation options through flyers, posters, or digital signage at your facility.  If you use a lobby display screen or patient notification board, include notices for patient transportation options that appear throughout your rotation of announcements.

Assign staff members to address patients’ needs, one-on-one.  These employees can help patients determine which transportation assistance programs they may be eligible for (e.g. Medicaid non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program), help them apply or sign up for assistance, and help them understand their existing benefits or coverage (e.g. how ambulance transportation may or may not be covered under Medicare).

Promote patient transportation options through your hospital’s social media accounts.

Create New Patient Transportation Options


Institute a driver volunteer program to provide rides to eligible patients, as Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital and Green Mountain RSVP have done.

Start a hospital van service, like the one Taylor Regional Hospital created to deliver prescriptions and bring patients to and from the hospital.

Partner with an on-demand transportation service, like Maryland Health System has with Uber and Denver Health has with Lyft, to offer free or discounted transportation to qualifying patients.

Provide shuttle, bus, or taxi travel vouchers.  Create an incentive program for eligible patients who keep their appointments.

Participate in local government and community planning projects.  The American Hospital Association suggests hospital representatives “participate in local or regional transportation planning initiatives and educate decision-makers about how health can be affected by transportation” to encourage the development of new patient transportation options (such as more walkable routes, bike lanes, bike-sharing programs, bus or shuttle services, etc.).

Alleviate Patient Transportation Needs by Bringing Care to the Patients


Invest in a mobile health center, as Calvert Health System has; the Calvert Health System Mobile Health Center brings primary and preventive health services to patients by visiting churches and community centers.

Create a prescription delivery or mail service, or provide pharmacy services on site to cut travel for patients, as the American Hospital Association advises here (p. 12).

Provide more telehealth opportunities and encourage use of the patient portal for minor questions.


Make a commitment to address patient transportation needs using the suggestions above, and your patients, community, and facility will all enjoy the benefits of better health outcomes.

You can read in further detail how the health systems mentioned above (Grace Cottage, Taylor Regional, Denver Health, and Calvert Health) address patient transportation needs in the case studies provided by the American Hospital Association.


By Stephanie Salmich

Improve patient safety for patients like the family and newborn pictured here.

Medical Errors Statistics Reveal the Need to Improve Patient Safety

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

Medical Errors Statistics Reveal the Need to Improve Patient Safety

Posted on Monday, March 12, 2018

In 2018, it can be easy to take patient safety for granted; however, studies show that we have a long way to go to truly improve patient safety:

According to a nationwide survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, 21% of patients report experience with medical errors.  The survey also found that these medical errors “often have lasting impact on the patient’s physical health, emotional health, financial well-being, or family relationships.”

With approximately 251,454 deaths in the U.S. per year due to medical errors, Johns Hopkins University researchers estimate that this is the third leading cause of death in the country.  (Research published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates the number of premature deaths due to medical errors could be even higher – over 400,000 per year.)

Patient safety is of the utmost importance to any healthcare system, so how can these numbers be so high?

As the PatientSafe Network explains, there are many obstacles that thwart or diminish efforts to improve patient safety.  These include issues regarding cognitive dissonance, blame/pointing fingers, complexity, cost, and many more.  See their full list of (18!) obstacles here.

Improve Patient Safety

Improve patient safety for patients like the family and newborn pictured here.

Make the commitment to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety during National Patient Safety Awareness Week.

This week is National Patient Safety Awareness Week, an initiative of The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) “designed to mark a dedicated time and a platform to increase awareness about patient safety among health professionals and the public,” according to their website.  There will be two main issues highlighted this year – safety culture and patient engagement.

National Patient Safety Awareness Week offers an opportunity for both healthcare professionals and healthcare consumers to come together to improve patient safety.  IHI and NPSF offer plenty of ideas for getting involved and a day-by-day guide to activities for the week, and invite you to join the conversation on social media (use the hashtag #PSAW in your posts).

You can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, and a detailed calendar of this year’s health observances and recognition days here.

In order to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors and patient safety risks, it will take the work of all stakeholders (administrators, clinicians, staff, patients, family members, etc.) to raise awareness of this critical issue.  It will also take their commitment to making the changes necessary for lowering risks to patient safety.


By Stephanie Salmich

A doctor holds a tablet showing healthy food images representing the blog topic – reduce patient malnutrition.

Taking Steps to Reduce Patient Malnutrition is Critical to Health Outcomes

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

Taking Steps to Reduce Patient Malnutrition is Critical to Health Outcomes

Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When we look at the statistics, the importance of taking steps to reduce patient malnutrition becomes clear.  A study of 818 inpatients published in Clinical Nutrition found that up to one third were malnourished, resulting in “poor hospitalization outcomes” such as increased mortality rates and higher costs of care.

Indeed, according to an article published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

“Malnutrition is associated with many adverse outcomes, including an increased risk of pressure ulcers and impaired wound healing, immune suppression and increased infection rate, muscle wasting and functional loss increasing the risk of falls, longer length of hospital stay, higher readmission rates, higher treatment costs, and increased mortality.”

The authors of the article point out that malnutrition is often overlooked, despite its dire consequences and the startling number of patients who suffer from it.  Per research cited in the article, it is estimated that in developed countries at least one third of patients are malnourished to some degree at the point of admission; during their hospital stay, the nutrition of about two thirds of these patients will worsen if untreated; and about one third of patients who are not malnourished when admitted may become malnourished during their stay.

Fortunately, hospitals can prevent many of the negative effects of malnutrition.  The authors of the article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggest healthcare facilities apply the following six principles to nutrition care in order to reduce patient malnutrition:

Reduce Patient Malnutrition


1 – “Create an institutional culture where all stakeholders value nutrition” – Administrators and all healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, etc.) must collaborate.

2 – “Redefine clinicians’ roles to include nutrition care” – Provide clinicians with nutrition training and continuing education.

3 – “Recognize and diagnose all malnourished patients and those at risk” – Every hospitalized patient should be screened according to a standardized procedure.

4 – “Rapidly implement comprehensive nutrition interventions and continued monitoring” – Immediate nutrition interventions must be a high priority; consumption must be monitored and adjusted as necessary.

5 – “Communicate nutrition care plans” – Ensure patients’ nutrition care plans are updated in the EHR and all healthcare professionals are informed.

6 – “Develop a comprehensive discharge nutrition care and education plan” – Communicate the nutrition care plan to the patient and caregivers, provide them with nutrition education, and follow up to check adherence to the plan.


A doctor holds a tablet showing healthy food images representing the blog topic – reduce patient malnutrition.

Reduce patient malnutrition to improve health outcomes.

A piece featured on the Hospitals & Health Networks website proposes that “before implementing interventions, a hospital must first visualize food as medicine to realize the impact that food can make in the community.”  This article provides many ideas for hospitals looking to serve their communities and reduce patient malnutrition (such as establishing on-site gardens, healthy cooking classes, food pantries, and food pharmacies).

March is National Nutrition Month®, an education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  This is the perfect time to start implementing the above principles at your facility and take steps to reduce patient malnutrition.  You can also promote healthy eating habits for your employees and patients using the tools the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides here.

Don’t forget to recognize the RDNs who serve and advance the health of your community by celebrating Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day (the second Wednesday in March) as well!


You can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, a detailed calendar of this year’s health observances and recognition days here, and information on the other social determinants of health here.


By Stephanie Salmich

Managing the flu season: Sick patients sit in the waiting room.

Managing the Flu Season and High Patient Volume

| No Comments

HealthWare Systems Blog

Managing the Flu Season and High Patient Volume

Posted on Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Managing the flu season has been especially difficult for hospitals this year as health systems around the country are overflowing with record numbers of flu patients, resulting in ambulance diversions and delays, bed shortages, and ERs that are operating beyond capacity.

For example, Saint Agnes Medical Center’s ER in California has been operating at 104% capacity and UCLA Medical Center’s ER, which usually treats around 140 patients/day, recently treated over 200 patients in one day.  In January Illinois had 100 more flu outbreaks than it did last year at the same time.

Here are some suggestions for managing the flu season:


Prevention

The best thing you can do in your work toward managing the flu season is to take preventive measures to reduce the number of patients the flu will bring in in the first place.  Be diligent in your efforts to educate patients about, and encourage them to receive, the flu vaccine.  Many may not realize that it’s not too late to get the flu shot for this flu season.  Provide them with the CDC’s tips for prevention and dispel any of the common flu myths they may believe.

The ModernMedicine Network outlines the importance of considering how you might compete with drug stores and retail clinics to secure your patients’ business for flu shots.  They suggest providing for walk-in vaccinations, setting up after-hours or weekend vaccination clinics, and partnering with nearby businesses to arrange flu shot clinics for their employees (which has the potential to generate new patients), among other ideas.


Preparation

Prepare for managing high patient volume, which you’re likely to see during the flu season.  Adjust your staffing needs and keep in mind that your employees may get sick, too.  A patient tracking system will help you to better allocate staff and resources and will vastly improve efficiency and patient throughput.

Other workflow automation tools will also aid you in managing high patient volume by increasing efficiency and perhaps compensating for an uptick in sick/absent employees.


Containment

Research published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that 4 in 10 healthcare professionals work while experiencing flu-like symptoms, risking the safety of the most vulnerable patients such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases.  Sick employees with a fever and respiratory symptoms should be instructed not to return to work “until at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicines such as acetaminophen),” according to the CDC.

Additionally, create a designated space in the waiting room for patients with flu symptoms where they can sit without spreading the flu to other patients.  And make sure plenty of hand sanitizer, tissues, and masks are available to help contain the virus.

Managing the flu season: Sick patients sit in the waiting room.

High patient volume makes containment in the waiting area especially important to managing the flu season.

Managing the flu season is a challenge, but prevention, preparation, and containment will help you to operate efficiently while managing high patient volume and keeping your patients safe.


By Stephanie Salmich