The healthcare community has always had an innovative mindset, in part because of its research-based roots.
There is a constant search for new ways to protect our well-being and speed the healing process. Its interests lie in both prevention and renewal, and best practices have continuously evolved to reflect key learnings in the field. This is true of medical techniques as well as clinical technologies. However, it has been difficult to define “success” or measure progress the past two years given the brisk pace of change spurred by the pandemic.
The healthcare community has always had an innovative mindset, in part because of its research-based roots. There is a constant search for new ways to protect our well-being and speed the healing process. Its interests lie in both prevention and renewal, and best practices have continuously evolved to reflect key learnings in the field. This is true of medical techniques as well as clinical technologies. However, it has been difficult to define “success” or measure progress the past two years given the brisk pace of change spurred by the pandemic.
That’s why HIMSS 2022 was so important.
It gave us an opportunity to deeply analyze challenges that health information and technology professionals, clinicians, executives, and market suppliers are having today. Furthermore, we were able to scrutinize the viability of current “solutions.” Are they really solving the root cause of healthcare’s challenges and founded upon best practices that will serve us well in the long term? Or are they just bandages that need to be ripped off and replaced with mechanisms that allow for the sustained delivery of high-quality care?
As we begin to understand the true state of healthcare and the steps required to achieve our modernization vision, we know technology will be a primary driver of performance analysis and performance itself. Patient experiences and outcomes are greatly influenced by the capabilities of both clinical and non-clinical staff. Therefore, we must ensure all staff are equipped with the technology tools they need to do their jobs collaboratively and with ease, without finding workarounds or wasting time trying to piece together information from multiple silos.
At HIMSS, the Zebra team showed how our hardware and software engineers, app developers, and healthcare experts are collaborating with members of the healthcare community and other technology companies to help unburden the delivery of care for clinicians and other staff.
Our goal is to deliver easy-to-use, holistic and interoperable technology solutions that integrate effortlessly across operations to give both IT teams and end users relief from common pain points.
Here are some of the ways our solutions are designed to connect assets, workflows, patients and staff—from patient identification to clinical mobility, tracking solutions and more – to unify the caregiving experience and make daily demands more manageable:
Zebra understands the wide range of patient, specimen, and medication identification needs to help ensure patient safety in hospitals and other healthcare environments. And we know that it all starts at the wrist, with positive patient identification (PPID). So, our HIMSS booth demo showcased multiple PPID tap-and-pair and scan-and-print solutions in which handheld mobile computers, barcode scanners and tablets are used to scan government-issued ID cards and generate a barcoded wristband on a nearby printer. The same mobile devices can then be used to confirm the wristband is active for PPID by other care team members as the patient moves throughout the facility.
For example, we demonstrated a printer resident application loaded on all printers used to print PPID barcode wristband samples with a Zebra/ HIMSS 2022 logo. The barcoded wristband was then attached to each attendee as a “welcome” to the Zebra Medical Center (aka, our booth).
We also demonstrated a complete portfolio of PPID solutions that optimize comfort and durability while allowing for the quick identification of specific patient needs or conditions. These include the Zebra LaserBand, Comfy Cuff, radio frequency identification (RFID), Mother/Baby, and Alert labels.
The LaserBand solutions feature an enhanced shape and design that makes assembly easier and allows the wristband to lie flat on the wrist enabling quick scanning while offering superior comfort. Zebra’s durable Z-Band RFID direct thermal printable wristband solutions simplify the identification and tracking of patients in a hospital.
The color-coded wristbands and labels on display provide compliance with U.S. color-coding standards for patient conditions such as allergies, do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders, fall risks, and restricted limbs. In addition, we showed how temperature monitoring tracking labels and sensors can be used to help ensure medical supplies and pharmaceuticals have been properly stored and transported to healthcare facilities.
Pharmacy and Laboratory
The demos in this part of the Zebra Medical Center showed how technology can be used to streamline pharmacy and lab technician workflows, improve inventory management and enhance patient safety with digital track and trace technologies. For example, we demonstrated advanced scanning technologies that allow for the easy capture of data from barcoded items that have been historically challenging to scan, such as blood bags. We also showed how quick and simple it can be to comply with Unique Device Identification (UDI) scanning and reporting requirements for medical devices, such as implants.
One capability that piqued the interest of many attendees was RFID medicine tracking. This is something that has long been managed using barcodes, but it’s time to move beyond the barcode for many reasons – the most significant being the need for speed, accuracy and trust in the data. There’s tremendous pressure to comply with regulations such as the European Union’s Falsified Medicines Act and the FDA’s Drug Supply Chain Safety Act. RFID track and trace technology is quickly proving its value to those who are trying to build trust in the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Similarly, temperature sensing and monitoring solutions such as the ones Zebra demonstrated at HIMSS are garnering more interest among healthcare decision-makers throughout the entire supply chain – from manufacturers to pharmacists, physicians, lab technicians, and blood bank operators. Nearly three-quarters of decision-makers who participated in Zebra’s most recent Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Vision Study say they either use temperature-sensitive labels and item/batch level temperature monitors today or will be using them by the end of 2022. Over nine-in-10 respondents say they’ll be using these technologies to manage their pharmaceutical supply chains in the next five years. There are many temperature-sensitive products collected and handled by the healthcare community during diagnostic, treatment and preventative care workflows, and a concerted effort must be made to preserve those “cold chain” products and minimize unnecessary waste.
Bedside Point of Care
Clinical collaboration is necessary for the continuity of patient care both inside the hospital and in other care environments. However, it is especially important at the bedside, where patients are typically in need of specialized acute care. Enterprise-grade mobile computing, scanning, sensing and printing technologies purpose-built for the healthcare environment help increase clinical effectiveness and enhance patient care. They allow for the secure capture and transmission of patient data and real-time collaboration with physically distanced care team members. Nurses can consult with doctors across campus – or the globe – without having to leave a patient’s side. And additional assistance can be called in when alarms go off or patient transport is required. There’s no need for care team members to run back to the nurse’s station to round up resources.
In fact, we ran multiple clinical collaboration simulations at HIMSS using cross-portfolio solutions, including an RN call system integrated with a third-party application. We also showed an entire healthcare workflow that uses Zebra’s Workforce Connect platform for dynamic, real-time voice, text and data-based collaboration on the TC52-HC mobile healthcare touch computers. Clinicians could pinpoint the location of equipment, patients and one another via the Workforce Connect app, then rendezvous at critical care points as needed to respond to patient needs. They were able to virtually consult with off-site physicians and coordinate the best care actions with lab, radiology and surgery teams.
We also showed how a workstation on wheels could be equipped with barcode scanners and printers for mobile specimen collection, and how RFID sleds could be attached to clinicians’ mobile computers to allow for a quick read of patient wristbands and other RFID-tagged equipment, such as wheelchairs or IV pumps.
Medical Campus Communications
In addition to supporting collaborative patient care at the bedside, we showed how Zebra’s Workforce Connect application suite can be used to improve hospital-wide communication among clinical and non-clinical staff. For example, the Workforce Connect healthcare cloud demo empowered attendees in different departments to make and receive calls using push-to-talk (PTT) and fully-featured PBX mobile phones. The admissions team was able to call the nursing station. Those at the nursing station were able to call patient rooms, as were pharmacists calling bedside nurses with medication order updates. And the pharmacy was able to reach out to the receiving department to see if its replenishment order for a high-demand drug had arrived.
Medical Supply Chain and Operational Track and Trace
Supply chain management has become so critical since the start of the pandemic, and there’s renewed interest in automating the track and trace of supplies, medication and equipment within healthcare facilities. That’s why many HIMSS attendees were looking at how Zebra mobile computers and printers, barcode scanners, and RFID platforms can be used to improve the management of hospital inventory and assets, starting at the receiving dock. We demonstrated over a dozen scan-and-print solutions that allow for the proper labeling or tagging of inbound assets. We also highlighted how Zebra’s RFID solutions for healthcare can be used to identify, track, locate and monitor the condition of patients, assets, and staff to help ensure optimal operations, patient care, and safety. We revealed use strategies that help staff streamline workflows and better control regulated medicines. Additionally, we showed attendees how track and trace technologies can increase the accuracy of inventory supply management to improve throughput, reduce waste, and inform sourcing decisions. We conducted pharmaceutical and biological sample tracking in real time and collaborated with Tagnos to show how easily staff, patients, and assets can be detected in hospitals via sensing and mobile computing technologies.
As technology utilization rises in healthcare, so does the burden on IT to manage those technologies. That’s why we’ve been doing everything we can to simplify solution management. For example, the Power Precision Console on display at HIMSS allows for the fast diagnostic and maintenance of batteries deployed in mobile device fleets. It even has a built-in alarm that alerts end-users and IT to battery issues before they become disruptive. And the Device Tracker built into many Zebra mobile computers allows IT, operations and even clinical teams to quickly locate lost, misplaced, or stolen devices within facilities. Both of these powerful mobility tools are unique to Zebra’s Mobility DNA suite of offerings, which was designed to reduce the need for increased IT staffing to support all solutions. In fact, all Zebra DNA software tools are built to increase solution uptime, lower deployment and management costs, increase data and device security, and improve user acceptance – which is key to modernizing healthcare at the pace today’s world warrants.
Putting Words into Action
Remember, the burden is on us as technologists, solution engineers, IT leaders, clinical innovators and healthcare visionaries to unburden the delivery of patient care. Healthcare professionals need a reprieve, and patients need high-quality, compassionate care no matter the circumstances. Let’s use the technology tools we have at our disposal to build a more unified and collaborative global healthcare model that provides caregivers the means to support patients’ healing process without compromising their own well-being.