3 Steps to Reduce Technology Complexity for the Healthcare Caregiver

Healthcare Patient Engagement

Photo Attribution: Irina Strelnikova/Shutterstock.com

Is your healthcare model using multiple devices or complex applications to manage patient information? This can cause many complications and consume much precious time that could otherwise go towards providing the best possible care for people in need. Instead of having to manage all these different types of pieces, your healthcare team can have more control over patient data in an easier way.

  1. The first step in your process improvement is to take a long-term strategic review of all applications and devices used by field personnel, after which you can start determining how your systems can be further simplified to deploy and maintain on an ongoing basis.

    The key to make your home healthcare line of business profitable is by hiring personnel generally unskilled in technology and training them on how to use it. This can be a daunting task especially for midlife and older employees, but the rewards are worth it as they will stay around longer with such an educational background. For this reason, it's important for healthcare practices to evaluate their use of all field technology and determine how they can simplify the deployment process so that staff members have an easier time with maintenance.

    Consider the following suggestions:

    • Can you eliminate or simply application complexity?
      • Could you write or outsource-write some field application with less functionality and simpler UIs? Studies show that less than 10-20% of features of software are actually used.
      • Could you build or buy a "lite" version of products?
      • If you were to build a better product, would it be a competitive advantage?
      • Could you sell it to the industry?
    • What devices and applications do competitors use all over the world? No doubt your competitors may be having the same problems or have worked through them. Networking with your fellow CIOs/tech experts may help you learn best practices.
    • Perform an audit of caregiver industry technologies to make sure that you are using the least complex, most modern and lowest cost.
  2. The next step to simplify your organization's technological use would be to perform a "Hands-on" Quality Assurance (QA) for any new technology that impacts field personnel in advance of any rollout. You can pay untrained new field personnel to help with this. Remember to leave adequate time to iterate this process and create training material from this work.

    One method to perform the QA process would be to:

    1. Start with sealed boxes with technology products inside and a new untrained field employee.
    2. End with this person walking out of a room and feeling like they are ready to start the next day doing their job with this technology.

    In between steps A and B is an immense amount of detail that has to be captured and analyzed by observation. Your IT personnel should go out into the field and do this "Hands-on" QA work. They should observe and watch the problems that field personnel have getting from step A to B. Then the IT team can train the field personnel as you go, but let them also discover on their own and see where they go off on tangents and where they get stuck. It is important that you create the technology training material after this work is done and iterated a few times.

    After one of these cycles is complete, you can test it again with new untrained field personnel and iterate as necessary until you can quantify the impact/cost of "bugs" remaining. At the end of the process, a few issues may remain. Your organization can then judge the possible impact and develop the training material with these issues in mind and also alert/train the help desk on these issues. Of course, this is not traditional QA of applications and devices which is performed in a lab in a vacuum; this is more like usability and learning testing. The only way to get useful data is to do this very difficult but useful testing. It is not enough just to send new technology to field supervisor personnel and ask them for feedback.

  3. The last step is to review all device authentication process/flow for all field applications. In order to review effectively, take a big step back and assess the complete account management/authentication/security approach your organization is undertaking. You need to think about if your systems are HIPAA compliant for internal employees.

    To have effective training that supports your employees, there should be documents that exist or can be written today that clearly outline the following:

    1. All application names, associated user ID standard convention rules and password requirements/rules that the 3 different kinds of field workers have. It should be a simple matrix with 5 columns (application name, user ID as above, password requirements as above, and what type of field work has this account, initial default password) and a row for each application.
    2. What are the known adverse interactions? If a user account was locked out, how was the rest of the user experience or overall business affected? The system should provide an easily accessible method to provide solutions for users. You should also take a poll of effects technological complications have had for your medical team.
    3. Has any QA testing been done on all the other possible account interactions? Is that QA testing matrix available?
    4. Who is the head of QA testing?

Patients who come to your healthcare organization may think they're in the right place, but have you considered what it is like for them when their assigned field personnel are struggling with the company's devices? This can be confusing and frustrating because some patients are not aware of how laborious managing this many different pieces can feel. The best way to make sure that every patient has a smooth experience with his or her care team would be by ensuring you have a simplified system that fulfills all the requirements, and on which personnel is well trained.

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