Oh, healthcare… where to begin. We won’t attempt to delve into the infinite potential conversations that surround healthcare. We are not medical professionals or politicians. But we do know a thing or two about knowledge management.
And if one thing is for certain, it’s that healthcare is a knowledge-driven industry.
An estimated 324,824,350 people currently live in the United States. Of course, not all of those people are utilizing the nation’s healthcare system. Regardless, imagine the amount of knowledge and expertise required to treat every individual patient’s unique symptoms.
Let’s break this down even further. There are currently 5,627 registered hospitals in the U.S., with a collective total of 12,440,670 employees. Every single one of these employees must be trained when they begin new jobs or transfer clinics and hospitals, and continue being trained throughout their career as treatments and procedures evolve. And you thought it was difficult to share information across departments in your organization…
With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that a knowledge management system is in order in the healthcare industry. The following three reasons scratch the surface of why adopting a solution is crucial to providing the best possible care and experience to patients:
1. Turn information overload into educated and empowered decision making.
Healthcare professionals are experiencing a paradox similar to that of other industries in the age of data and technology; they are constantly overwhelmed with new information, but struggle to find the information they need in the moment they need it.
An overload of information in the healthcare industry can quite literally save lives, if professionals have the ability to quickly access it from anywhere, anytime. However, doctors still largely base their decisions (is surgery the next step, is this a matter of urgency, what medication should be prescribed, etc.) on both personal knowledge and experiences, as well as the limited information regarding the patient available to them on a clipboard or screen.
This comes as no surprise in a system where doctors see up to 40 patients per day. There is rarely time within individual appointments to track down and consult other doctors (who are most likely busy with their own patients). Consider this scenario: A patient comes to their primary care provider experiencing symptoms that have their doctor perplexed. More than likely, she will make a (highly) educated guess as to what the sickness may be, and make a prescription based on this assumption. It may solve the problem, it may not.
But what if she not only had access to her own wealth of knowledge regarding symptoms, but the knowledge of every other medical professional in the hospital, all in the 20 minutes she has with her patient? It’s very likely that another doctor has seen this set of symptoms in a patient, and has some valuable suggestions as to what steps to take next.
An advanced and meticulously organized knowledge management solution allows this doctor to immediately search and identify symptoms, procedures, and other valuable information that could forever change the lives of patients for the better.
2. There is no room for error in the medical field.
As hospitals continue to consolidate staff, medical malpractice is on the rise. As staff leave or are laid off, their knowledge of procedures and current best practices leave with them, resulting in a higher frequency of mistakes.
Here’s the thing with mistakes in the healthcare industry; if an employee in an office setting sleeps through an 8am meeting, they may face no consequences. They may be reprimanded. If this is a pattern, they may even be fired. But they will not be sued, and no one will be physically harmed.
This is not necessarily the case in healthcare. It’s possible that a mistake may not have serious consequences, but it is also possible that a mistake may result in a tragedy or multi-million dollar lawsuit. Most health care professionals would rather not take the risk.
Knowledge management solutions allow hospitals to completely standardize all procedures and provide easily accessible trainings on these procedures. If the knowledge sharing solution has a powerful search and a mobile application, doctors, nurses, and medical technicians can access procedures at a moment’s notice, while on the go.
3. Collaborate with other medical professionals while protecting doctor/patient confidentiality.
Medical records are now almost entirely updated, stored, and transferred electronically, and there are obvious benefits to this transition. Medical records can be searched and easily shared among doctors and specialists. Not to mention, it’s much less difficult to lose an electronic medical record than it is an old tattered folder that is faxed from clinic to clinic.
With all these benefits, some medical professionals still have concerns about electronic record keeping, and for good reason. The digital transition presents new threats to patients’ privacy, the doctor/patient relationship, and doctor/patient confidentiality.
So, how do medical professionals collaborate and learn from each other’s past and present cases without violating these relationships? A knowledge management solution allows care providers to document and share symptoms, or any other information that may be helpful, while keeping the patient anonymous. This way, potentially life-saving knowledge is not off-limits, and patients privacy remains protected.
There is not a single industry or organization that would not benefit from adopting a powerful knowledge management solution. Every type of organization should have a searchable wealth of knowledge, standardized, accessible procedures, and increased collaboration. But in the wake of the digital transition in healthcare, a knowledge management solution is not optional; it’s imperative.