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By Caryn Hewitt

The almost overwhelming role of technology in daily life has led healthcare consumers to expect their patient journey to be enhanced by digital solutions each step of the way. A recent study from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) found that 84% of healthcare decision-makers report that patients demand a “more personalized, holistic digital experience,” as 75% agree their organizations must continue to pursue a digital-first culture. The study identifies several trends driving these digital health transformations, most notably the rise of consumerism and clinician burnout. Digital technologies have been shown to not only improve the patient experience but also alleviate clinician burden by reducing workloads. Healthcare leaders must consider new implementations to meet patient desires and support their resource-constrained teams.

Ensuring technology implementations are properly supported is key to achieving high-quality patient care, staff satisfaction, and overall employee retention, along with increasing an organization’s bottom line. Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) with IoT-enabled location technology, badges, tags, and sensors can provide a return on investment (ROI) that delivers a near-immediate positive impact for patients, staff, and the facility. Equipping employees with reliable and actionable real-time visibility provides the appropriate insights to ensure daily operations run smoothly and that administrative insights are recorded automatically, reducing the time clinicians spend manually entering documentation and increasing time reallocated to patient care.

As healthcare leadership seeks to thoughtfully plan, strategize, and implement these emerging technologies, they must factor in first-hand expertise from various departments (nursing, IT, security, administrative, etc.) to ensure they’re truly understanding the needs of staff and patients for the greatest impact on pain points and create a safer, more supportive environment. Once gathered for the planning stages, individuals from these various departments must serve as a sounding board to one another to address the facility’s challenges. For the best experiences and outcomes, healthcare decision-makers must leverage these insights to develop smart hospitals as spaces designed for caregivers and patients by caregivers and patients—creating a more human-focused experience for all.

Why Leadership Must Pursue Humanism In Healthcare

A recent study with the National Center for Biotechnology Information demonstrates how involving participants with different relevant backgrounds leads to higher user satisfaction when implementing emerging technology. By involving various perspectives when designing shared spaces and tools, there’s a greater chance of employee buy-in, enhanced usability, and improved efficiency and communication due to staff members understanding what their colleagues need most.

By connecting with representatives from the relevant departments throughout the facility and factoring in their input, staff members will feel heard and reassured that their experience matters to leadership. Once new technologies such as RTLS and workflow automation are implemented in the facility, healthcare professionals will experience improved efficiency, reduced non-clinical tasks, increased job satisfaction, and greater collaboration with their team and patients.

How RTLS Reduces Clinician Burnout And Improves Outcomes

The challenges of the last few years have repeatedly demonstrated the effects of clinician burnout and how it impacts patient health outcomes, the patient experience, staff retention, and financial costs. As healthcare organizations continue to seek digital transformation solutions to boost the overall experience and care quality, they must also consider the well-being of their staff members. Stressful workloads pose a significant challenge within the healthcare industry, and one prominent reason for this is the number of manual administrative and non-clinical tasks shouldered daily by nurses and physicians. Almost half of the nurses who responded to a recent survey from McKinsey & Company echoed that sentiment by sharing that the intent to leave their role in the near future was based largely on one key reason: an unmanageable workload.

Patient care delays and clinical workflow bottlenecks often arise from manual data entry, sorting through 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. In the absence of advanced location technology, 63% of healthcare workers reported spending more than an hour per shift searching for necessary data or devices.

Automating these tasks with unified RTLS cloud-based solutions returns more clinician time to patient care and the ability to operate at the top of their licenses. To further optimize patient time and enable ongoing process improvements, organizations can measure crucial metrics in patient flow reports to see details such as patient volume, length of stay, room utilization, patient wait times at each clinical milestone, and time spent with the provider. Additionally, the real-time visibility provided by RTLS solutions eliminates the need for providers to inquire about patient whereabouts or wait for manual status updates, allowing for more efficient daily workflow management and clinician ability to repurpose time to connect with patients.

Support For All

A key aspect of enhancing the patient experience is ensuring that patients and loved ones are connected, well-informed, and comfortable throughout their care journey. Therefore, it is important for decision-makers to recognize that hospitals are often intimidating, overwhelming, and confusing places. Because patients and loved ones may find it challenging to navigate healthcare facilities that cover city blocks or feature identical hallways, it is critical that leadership provides a supportive environment from the start. Digital wayfinding can lower anxiety for patients and visitors as healthcare systems seek to provide a more intuitive experience. When integrated with a larger RTLS deployment, an advanced digital wayfinding solution can prepare and guide patients through a customized experience from the start. Healthcare organizations should provide patients with easy navigation and peace of mind by clearly communicating indoor and outdoor walking instructions and points of interest (POIs) using the facility’s floorplan on a private Google Maps-like interface.

Healthcare leadership can continue to develop the patient experience by seeking tools that allow for efficient communication. By leveraging RTLS insights alongside patient workflow software, automated family text messaging features can share real-time updates with patient-approved contacts. Messaging updates return comfort to patients as their loved ones may not be able to visit immediately or may not be local to the facility. As such, an increase in trust among the patient, medical staff, and family is often experienced in organizations that have implemented this offering.

While patients seek a feeling of ease and peace of mind in hospitals, healthcare leadership must also consider the well-being of their clinicians. The HIPAA Journal reports that a third of healthcare workers felt unsafe at work last year, with 58% fearing an increase in workplace threats. These statistics cannot just be “part of the job.” Using a clinical-grade RTLS duress solution, employees become equipped with the ability to discreetly summon security to their precise location using a simple button press on their IoT-enabled badge. The crucial technology ensures duress alerts are immediately addressed, prevents escalation of violent incidents, and provides reassurance for staff—boosting retention.

As healthcare facilities rapidly adopted digital technology, 62% of healthcare decision-makers recognized the need to at least piecemeal together solution implements to stay competitive. Providers must leverage technological advances like RTLS to meet increasing patient expectations and challenges experienced by staff. Now is the time to revisit strategic digital transformation planning and consider the roadmap ahead with expertise from each relevant facility department. In addition to connecting with the key departments, working with a trusted partner for strategic consultations and comprehensive solutions establishes a strong foundation for success. Properly implemented, real-time enterprise visibility supports scalable, resilient environments that drive better patient outcomes, support staff, enhance facility operations, and achieve the desired ROI.


Hewitt is the Senior Director, Consulting Services at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing, and security solutions for the healthcare industry. CenTrak has helped more than 2,000 healthcare organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient enterprise.

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Facility Executive Magazine