The importance of time in patient care

With recent funding announced to enable NHS organisations to save staff time on system logins, Andy Wilcox, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Imprivata discusses how time can also be a useful measurement for success when deploying new technology. Understanding the clinical workflow prior to implementation removes the barriers for adoption, saves time in rollout, daily use and ultimately facilitates patient experiences and outcomes.

Last year the government announced over £40m funding to the NHS to cut login times on its IT systemsi, potentially saving thousands of staff hours which could be better spent on patient care. We all know the saying that ‘time heals’ - in this instance, streamlining access to systems is one way of giving clinicians more time, enabling them to focus on the patient.

While technology advances have placed more patient data, information and insight at a clinician’s fingertips, it has resulted in their often needing to access multiple applications to deliver the right patient care (as an example, staff at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS have access to over 60 clinical applications). With access to different systems bound by safety and security compliance, the result is multiple time-consuming, and often non-intuitive, ways of login.

A login for access is not a difficult thing for IT departments to deliver, however, there are implications to consider. A login is a digital identity, which raises the issue of who should access which systems (authority and security), both to provide safe, appropriate medical care and to meet legal and audit requirements. A digital identity needs to facilitate access to applications like Patient Summary Care Records, a connected vital signs monitor or Electronic Prescription Service, to enable informed decision making and action.

Providing ways like a Single Sign On or ‘tap and go’ smartcards can speed up the process of logging onto different systems and can deliver many benefits;

Increases patient face time - with a doctor or nurse more focused on the patient than a computer or device, the quality of care is improved, which also means less anxiety for the patient during a potentially traumatic time.

Mitigates risk - external influences that can cloud the decision-making process are a risk to patient care. Reducing or removing tasks that divert focus ensures there is less distraction for the clinician.

Reduces staff burnout - with the increasing pressure on the healthcare system from an ageing population, staff resource and most recently, the unprecedented impact of a global pandemic, staff burnout is a growing problem and often related to working in a time pressured environment.


Working with clinicians to save time

Acknowledging the benefits that time saving technology can bring to patient care, NHS Trusts are constantly reviewing new systems and applications, evaluating adoption by the staff, particularly when significant investment has been made.

A measurement of success is often how effective and efficient a new system enables staff to operate. Yet arguably for the NHS, an accurate measurement could be that of time. If an application gives staff that all important information to make fast, informed decisions – which could literally be a matter of life or death – then how quickly it is able to do so could be considered an important critical success factor.


Identifying barriers to success

However they are measured, new technology systems require thought and due diligence to existing processes and user experience for successful implementation. Here’s a few things to consider:

  1. Understanding the current experience and what challenges clinicians are facing is key. Building a detailed picture beforehand helps to recognise where the greatest frustrations are and where maximum benefits can be had. It helps identify possible barriers to adoption and highlight where adjustments could be made.
  2. A review of how the new system will work with existing technologies/workflow is vital to prevent possible obstacles. For example, how easy is the system to use and access, what impact does it have on staff or patients?
  3. Trialling pilot projects in wards or departments can help to manage change before undertaking wider rollout, with the positive result of increased user acceptance and adoption.

Understanding the clinical workflow of healthcare providers and organisations not only empowers the clinicians and optimises the adoption of new technologies, it facilitates improvements in patient experience and outcomes. Ultimately any new technology should be measured by the benefit its delivers to help staff do their job and the patient care.

For a copy of Imprivata’s whitepaper “Change - It’s About Time”, visit: