Saturday, March 26, 2011

"The Immediacy Conundrum"

Question #4 “During this hospital stay, after you pressed the call button, how often did you get help as soon as you wanted it?” Answers: Never, Sometimes, Usually, Always, and I never pressed the call button.

“after you pressed the call button”

Patience is not in abundant supply at Gate’s BBQ. When you walk in the door they shout at you - “Hi May I help you?” you must know to yell back very quickly – there is no patience for Umm or questions – by either the counter staff or the patrons behind you. You must shout back – quickly with full confidence - “Yes, I want a burnt end sandwich, fries, and a Ice Tea.” The food arrives to the counter very quickly – you can watch the man through the cook window constantly chopping and slicing meat to serve – you know it will be good, hot, and fresh.

The Gates atmosphere creates an expectation for an immediate response to questions, there must be no hesitation. I have reviewed reams of data from nurse call systems and 4 years ago when we started – the average wait time before exit of the bed for a patient was about 1:13. Now we see a majority falling under the 30 second threshold. Are people getting more impatient? Maybe…

We live in a world where as soon as I want to be connected my expectation is to have connection. The problem with “after you pressed the call button” is many patients expectation is immediate. Geeky techy stuff – if you have a nurse call system older than 2 years and you are functioning in decentralized – there is a lag time. Depending on the specific system – it can be an “eternity” in terms of immediacy. This is not a reflection on caregivers, it may actually be a reflection on the implementation of technology. Yet, caregivers are under pressure. Just like Gates, the health system and government is creating an atmosphere around hospitals that require immediacy. By its ever- more acute care criteria for entry, there is an equal expectation for immediate response?

Let’s talk solutions to the immediacy conundrum. The Decentralized Nurse Call craze of a few years ago is beginning to subside as hospitals realize the limitations of moving the patient call to an individual who is mobile and has variable task responsibilities on the unit. Decentralizing or sending the “Normal” patient call to a wireless device does not solve for immediacy – it’s actually the most difficult methodology for nursing to utilize because there is no immediate feedback on volume of requests or the “queue”. Immediacy requires the “queue” to be low and the person answering the call to interact and disconnect quickly. Think Economics - Basic Supply and Demand Theory – if you have too many nurses and not enough calls then you are fine. However, what is generally the case at documentable specific periods of shifts, if you have too many calls and not enough staff then you are going to get low scores on question 4.

The trick is the patient has a need and since they are not in their home environment and have very little control of their surroundings – many “wants” become needs. Not to mention the variation in expectation. The patient requires an immediate interaction – not an immediate solution. This is a really important point – so don’t miss it – the patient needs an immediate interaction and a sense that their need has been identified and help is on the way. The second key to this is you must deliver on the promise. So, if you have pushed your button and someone has quickly told you “help is on the way” then help must really be on the way. The only way to manage that is to develop a methodology to alert the needed caregiver with a specific request – data rich. Then Mobilize AND Monitor their action towards delivery. What does this mean – the person interacting with the patients request should be air traffic control – they should be able to monitor the total quantity of requests and estimate a delivery time. If there is a change in delivery time – maybe the patient should even be notified…..

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Kourtney Govro