The Interruption Problem for Nurses

by Mark Wechsler | Arrow Systems Integration

Interruptions are a problem for all of us. They distract our thoughts. Interruptions often stop us from completing tasks. For healthcare professionals, such as nurses, they often inhibit effectiveness and accuracy. The interruption problem causes delays in delivering care and may result in medical errors, increased costs, and loss of patient satisfaction.

The interruption problem is not hypothetical. It is real. I had the opportunity to witness its impact last week as a patient’s family member as I observed the acute care nursing staff going about their duties. Make no mistake, the nurses were great. They were professional, personable, caring, and attentive. Yet I observed some areas of obvious inefficiency that could be easily improved by eliminating unnecessary interruptions.

When the patient was admitted to his room, a nurse provided him with a phone number and unique code. The nurse explained that people outside the hospital could call that number and provide the code to get an update on the patient. My first thought was “Wow! They solved their interruption problem with a solution like Arrow SI′s Patient Connect.“ My second thought was to find out how this hospital’s solution worked.

It quickly became clear that communication services were not part of a solution to solve the interruption problem or to reduce the nurse’s workload. The telephone number and pin served only to validate that incoming phone calls were from people authorized (by the patient) to receive updates. The staff was fielding multiple calls from patient families and friends and that the same information was provide over and over again. Response to internal patient and physician requests were delayed while the staff was on the telephone, and although not readily apparent to the casual observer, some of the nurses seemed a little harried at times as they juggled trips between patient rooms and the nursing station telephones. Staff productivity was not improved by this manual process. There was little likelihood of it having a positive impact on the quality of care or patient satisfaction. The hospital’s approach to handling outside requests for patient information may be on target, but they failed to consider how (or if) communication services could be used to streamline the process’s execution. Thus, nurses continue to experience unnecessary interruptions that impacted their ability to focus on the patient.

For the hospital I was visiting, a communication solution such as Arrow SI′s Patient Connect would have enhanced their existing manual process by freeing the nursing staff from returning all but necessary calls. Patient Connect would give the nursing staff the ability to provide patient updates at their convenience with the assurance that only those individuals possessing the phone number and security code would have access to the information. Freeing the staff from unnecessary interruptions and repetitive telephone conversations would enable the focus to remain on the patient.

Patient Connect is an example Arrow SI′s commitment to deliver high value solutions for the healthcare industry. It is one of the solutions Arrow S3 offers for solving the interruption problem. Check out the ROI Calculator to get an understanding of the cost and productivity savings possible. To get a better idea of how Patient Connect can help solve the interruption problem watch this short video.

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