Three ways successful implementations of location technology like RTLS and other emerging technologies will impact patient care and staff well-being in 2024.

By Scott Hondros, MHA, SCPM

The well-being of healthcare professionals has become a top priority for organizations over the last few years, so much so that the Institute Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim has been upgraded to include the clinician well-being as a fourth aim (which has been further developed to include health equity as a fifth aim). It is now truly understood that the well-being of healthcare professionals is crucial to high-quality patient outcomes, positive patient experiences, strong staff retention, efficiency, and cost savings.

Without health systems investing in emerging technology, thoughtful facility designs, and safe workplace environments, healthcare professionals cannot perform care at the top of their license and experience reduced satisfaction. As the new year begins, healthcare leaders must further develop solutions that support the well-being of their employees, along with the health of patients and the facility’s bottom line.

As staffing shortages and clinician burnout are anticipated to persist within the industry in 2024, actionable data will become even more crucial to eliminate redundant manual processing in healthcare facilities. Patient care delays and clinical workflow bottlenecks often arise from manual data entry, dealing with siloed systems, and searching for necessary staff and equipment. IoT-enabled location sensors alleviate the administrative burden on clinicians by automating the non-clinical aspects of workflow, ensuring uninterrupted, real-time updates.

Clinical workflows automated with insights from real-time location systems (RTLS) provide strong data points, which allow teams to address bottlenecks and increase efficiencies. Even so, pairing AI and machine learning (ML) with location technology for predictive analytics can further benefit healthcare staff support, allowing clinicians to concentrate on high-quality care, thereby improving patient outcomes and staff satisfaction.

Here are three ways successful implementations of RTLS and other emerging technologies will impact patient care and staff well-being in 2024.

Responsibly Implemented AI

AI is set to significantly enhance healthcare industry processes and facilities. AI and ML can produce predictive analytics, utilizing historical data for valuable insights and forecasts, aiding hospitals in resource optimization and patient care enhancement. A recent survey from CenTrak revealed that 89% of strategic customers are actively discussing AI integration, with 79% considering its implementation crucial within the near-term. The synergy between RTLS, AI/ML, and hospital operations improvement is promising, especially for leveraging RTLS-gathered clinical and operational data for predictive analytics and actionable insights, aiding process optimization for efficiency and patient care in 2024.

Collecting more actionable data this year will enable AI and ML to offer predictive analytics on patient-staff interactions, infection prevention, and equipment utilization. RTLS platforms can serve as centralized hubs for AI-driven actionable insights at every RTLS journey phase, forecasting events like staff duress occurrences, asset restocking needs, and staff allocation and scheduling optimizations. This could significantly aid healthcare executives in meeting KPIs, supporting staff, calculating ROI, and surpassing industry benchmarks.

Even so, the healthcare sector must discover optimal ways to harness AI, complementing healthcare professionals to improve patient outcomes without diminishing the human element. The objective is not to replace human roles but to harness AI’s additional value to aid staff, patients, and their families.

Properly executed, AI and automation can cut down non-clinical workloads, freeing up professionals to focus on high-quality patient care and provide the flexibility that allows the redistribution of time and resources as necessary to assist patients in attaining their personal highest level of health. The industry’s aim for 2024 should be this collaborative patient-first approach and ensuring equitable health outcomes as this remarkable technology continues to advance.

Meeting Patient Expectations in Modern Healthcare Environments

First impressions are becoming increasingly crucial in the competitive healthcare market of 2024, blurring the lines between patients and customers. Prospective and returning patients often research healthcare facilities and staff online before appointments, which can include checking caregiver reviews, anticipated costs, outcomes, and more. Even these early interactions can define a positive experience, crucial to forging lasting, credible patient relationships. Healthcare facilities must anticipate the needs and expectations of the 2024 patient and meet them with effective communication and convenient solutions in a timely manner.

New patients, existing patients, or visitors often take measures to prepare for their visit including directions, parking, and travel time. Once they enter a healthcare facility, effective visual communications go a long way in ensuring each patient feels welcome, and the use of digital signage and wayfinding helps empower patients and visitors during a time when they may feel a lack of control. Reducing the stress associated with a hospital visit is essential to elevating the overall experience.

Upon entering a healthcare facility, digital wayfinding can empower patients and visitors by offering quick QR code options, mobile apps, webpages, and/or kiosks for navigation, including handicap-accessible routes and points of interest (POIs) along the way. Minimizing hospital visit stress is key to supporting patients when they need it most.

The addition of increased masking and face covering use has posed challenges for patients in recognizing the identities and roles of healthcare staff. The emerging role of digital whiteboards and patient infotainment systems offers an opportunity for advanced technology integration and personalization, set to improve the patient experience in 2024. With RTLS, clinicians’ entry can trigger the display of essential patient information and clear staff identification, fostering a more informed and connected patient experience.

In 2024, as healthcare organizations continue striving to strengthen communication channels, integrating RTLS visibility with patient workflow software allows automated text updates for patient-approved contacts, enhancing trust, clarity, safety, and experience. RTLS can also enable proactive patient communication, sharing updates and wait times.

Developing the Workplace: The Need for Automation and Safety

In 2024, healthcare leaders will continue to learn that supporting professionals not only improves care quality but also benefits the bottom line. Supportive technologies can lead to a safer environment for staff and more efficient care for patients. Access to workflow automation platforms is essential, reducing the need for manual documentation and enabling proactive communication among staff, patients, and their families.

Workflow platforms utilizing RTLS data can monitor patient flow metrics, providing staff with precise patient location information throughout their care journey. This year, prioritizing comprehensive visibility for healthcare professionals will be key, allowing teams to securely monitor each aspect of a healthcare facility, prioritizing tasks effectively and gaining beneficial insights on the real-time location of medical equipment.

As comprehensive visibility and workplace support grow, there are safety benefits that should increase with it. Workplace violence should not be an accepted risk for healthcare professionals. Yet, verbal and physical abuse rates are alarmingly high. This, combined with staffing shortages and burnout, is driving professionals away from the field.

Healthcare organizations must prioritize the safety of their staff in 2024 with the same emphasis as patient safety, adopting proactive strategies rather than reactive responses. As awareness of these issues grow, investments in technologies like staff duress systems and aggression screenings are increasing, reflecting a dedicated effort to mitigate workplace violence in healthcare. These efforts must continue and grow in 2024.

Location Technology and Enterprise Visibility to Benefit All in 2024

For healthcare leadership who are considering location technology, it is crucial to find a strategic partner that provides a comprehensive suite of solutions, forward-looking roadmap, and ongoing support to ensure the system is reaching its full ROI potential. Working closely with a strategic solution consultant can help alleviate planning challenges and guarantee that all necessary teams and departments are factored in from the beginning. Collaboration with a strategic consultant can also help define standards and bring in a perspective that understands both the technology and clinical side.

Scott Hondros is the vice president of Services Commercialization & Strategy at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing, and security solutions for the healthcare industry.