September 08, 2021
3 Benefits of Clinical Workflow Solutions for Rural Healthcare
By embracing cutting-edge technologies, providers can improve efficiencies, cut costs and enhance patient care.
Resource constraints often leave rural healthcare providers lagging behind their urban and suburban counterparts in technology adoption. However, rural providers stand to see some unique benefits from clinical workflow technologies. After all, solutions that effectively shrink the distance between users will have an outsize impact in areas where those users are more spread out.
Rural providers have often been hamstrung by the need to manage the IT infrastructure associated with new tools and systems. Even if they had the budgets to purchase infrastructure, these healthcare organizations struggled to recruit IT talent to rural areas. Fortunately, most clinical workflow solutions are now offered via a cloud subscription model, increasing access for rural providers.
Here are three important benefits of clinical workflow solutions for healthcare professionals in rural areas.
1. Improved Collaboration and Communication
When healthcare organizations adopt clinical collaboration solutions (such as secure messaging tools), they effectively increase the speed of their entire operations. In many healthcare settings — and rural hospitals in particular — it is common for providers to still rely on paper-based processes and dated technologies, such as fax machines and pagers. A switch to mobile applications and other digital tools can lead to improved efficiencies and faster and better decisions.
When these solutions are applied to workflows that affect patient care, they can also improve health outcomes. For instance, if a nurse walks into a patient’s room and can immediately notify a physician about a change or problem, the doctor can respond quickly by seeking more information or altering the plan of care. These clinical outcomes subsequently enhance patient and caregiver safety.
2. Virtual Care Opportunities
Telehealth expanded enormously (and rapidly) during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many healthcare providers in rural areas have a wealth of new tools to help patients access virtual care. This access is perhaps even more important for patients and providers in rural areas than it is for the healthcare industry as a whole because transportation has historically been a barrier to care in rural areas. It’s important to remember that there is frequently only one source of healthcare in rural communities, and rural hospitals often serve as both regional employment centers and feeders to larger hospitals in urban settings.
By adopting and using telehealth solutions, rural providers can connect patients with specialists in distant urban areas, helping eliminate travel as a hurdle. Rural hospitals can also lean on telehealth tools to follow up with discharged patients, helping reduce readmittance rates.
3. Access to Clinical Data
Digital tools that instantly report the results of bloodwork and other tests — and give patients and providers ready access to this information — are becoming an increasingly critical part of healthcare workflows. These solutions increase visibility for providers, enhance transparency for patients and allow both parties to take quick action in pursuit of positive health outcomes. These tools also make it easy for providers to share patient information with other healthcare systems, which is an important capability if patients need to be transferred because of capacity constraints or other reasons.
Only a decade ago, it was incredibly difficult for healthcare providers to exchange patient information in this way. Even five or six years ago, providers struggled with interoperability between various systems. Today, however, rural healthcare providers can leverage the same tools available to the world’s largest healthcare systems, making nearly real-time clinical data available to both their physicians and their patients.
Dennis Morley is director of strategic healthcare sales with CDW.