The thief of time - why time matters in healthcare

In healthcare time is critical, whether acting quickly to provide emergency care, or freeing up time to be able to see more patients. This has been even more evident during the recent pandemic, which has put immense pressure on the health service. Andy Wilcox, Head of International Product Marketing at Imprivata, discusses how good identity management can save time with workflow efficiencies and reduce risk, ultimately improving patient care

Time in hospitals has always been valued and in short supply, indeed, a thief of time would be rich indeed if it could be bottled and sold. For many years technology has been increasingly viewed as the panacea to save time in healthcare. New systems are continually being evaluated and introduced to improve operations, increase accuracy and efficiency - with time savings often cited as a measurement of success.

Saving time across the organisation – from clinicians and admin staff

It is a paradox that while technology has placed more information and insight easily at our fingertips, the ways to get at that digital data have become less intuitive and increasingly difficult, protected by regulation and security. Clinicians are faced with the challenge of balancing the benefits that technology brings to care, at the expense of time spent accessing and using new systems.

Whether logging onto a record within an EMR, a vital signs monitor or onto a mobile device, the barriers to access are often related to the security wrapped around the systems. It can be frustrating for clinicians wasting time trying to remember a variety of security passwords, just to do their job. In this context the security is checking identity, validating who they are, their permissions to access systems or records – even whether they have authority to do so from designated locations in and outside the hospital.

Another example of time spent is the administration team entering details of clinicians, nurses and facilities staff, when they join, move job or leave – a manual time-consuming task that is also prone to errors. Logins must be assigned for the different systems that staff need to use, with the challenge of keeping on top of licensing requirements when they switch departments or leave. There is also the need to keep track of access to data, ensuring security to comply with legislation and audit requirements.

Good digital identity management is the key

At the heart of these issues is managing digital identity. Effective digital identity management not only saves time in a healthcare environment, it delivers additional benefits:

Improves patient care - a secure login solution can streamline access to the right applications. As an example, clinicians can use a tap and go badge that enables authorised, fast access to multiple systems without having to remember different passwords. It immediately improves security with no more details written down on paper that can be lost or passed on without authority. Fast access to data and systems also helps with decision making and frees up more time to spend with the patient.

Mitigates risk – by making it easier for clinicians to access systems, they are freed from carrying out tasks that distract from their focus, so that all their energy can be used to do the job at hand.

Reduces staff burnout – working in a pressurised environment can increase the strain on staff, mentally and physically. Automating processes saves time and with no manual intervention, helps to reduce errors.

Aids regulatory compliance – an identity management system can help healthcare organisations to manage logins and ensure secure access to patient data and staff data, to help comply with legislation and provide detailed audit records.

As an example, an Identity Governance Management solution can be integrated with electronic staff records (ESR) to enable fast, accurate onboarding of staff. Logins and passwords can be assigned to staff according to their job requirements, and an accurate record is kept of licencing requirements for those moving or leaving jobs.

Bottom-up or top-down approach – both are important

These are all very real ways that healthcare organisations can save time and by realising efficiencies, help staff to do their job better. Identifying where the frustrations are at user level, and how this affects workflows, can help to make big differences in working practices.

It is also important to view the organisation’s structure top-down - how the systems in place are used and workflows required to streamline activities. Who needs to use which applications, what regulatory compliance needs to be met, and how and who is responsible for governance and for administration. With a framework and systems for digital identity management in place, IT and senior teams can plan and facilitate more efficient clinical and administration workflows across the organisation, to give back the most valuable resource – time.

For a copy of Imprivata’s whitepaper 'Change - It’s all about Time', visit: www.imprivata.co.uk

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