I was visiting a new client recently, discussing a project we were doing at their hospital to clean up their equipment data. While looking at some of the data in their legacy system, we saw many inconsistencies and mistakes that had managed to creep into the database through the day-to-day activities of the users over the years. For example, they had several device types, manufacturers and models describing a single piece of equipment, which was causing inventory reports on that equipment to be incorrect. With multiple naming conventions for one specific piece of equipment, it was difficult to manage recalls and alerts, because the database had to be manually screened to find everything affected. It was even more concerning that the inconsistencies in the data caused problems in preventative maintenance scheduling for the equipment.
We live in an information age where reliable data is everything. Informed decision making with technology and the data behind it is not just a smart choice, but a way of life for most of us. Better and faster information is available at our fingertips, and it’s making our lives easier. Technology plays a major role in delivering that information, but we often forget that in most cases, technology relies significantly on other humans to provide that information in the first place.
Utility-based apps are changing lives
I hear many people talk about how utility-based apps have helped them improve their lives and helped them make better choices. Apps like Waze help commuters accurately get up-to-the-minute traffic information, enabling them to make better navigational choices that save on time, gas, money and a lot of headaches sitting in traffic. It alerts drivers to hazardous road conditions ranging from fallen trees and pot holes, to dead squirrels — helping them to drive safer. It’s pretty amazing stuff, especially for anyone who remembers a world before smartphones and GPS.
Although the Waze software has been developed with some of the most advance algorithms and automation — providing some serious data accuracy — the force behind this advanced technology is extremely simple. Humans supplement the automated data collection. They do this by providing eyewitness data of traffic, road conditions and other hazards. The success of Waze is also dependent on the willingness of us humans to input reliable data — creating a community with a specific goal, in this case, improved road travel. Waze also succeeded by making it simple and fun to interact with the app, in order to obtain its user data.
Humans are in the driver's seat
Utilization of technology and automation to improve support services at hospitals is not much different than using technology in our personal lives. Like Waze, we can automatically pull all kinds data into the system, but to be really effective, we still need human interactions to get rich, real-time data. Well-designed, simple, intuitive apps with built-in data controls can energize staff to provide that data, while also improving their productivity.
As advanced and powerful as our technology becomes, humans are still in the driver’s seat on this information superhighway. We need to be collecting high quality data within our organizations and across the healthcare industry. Without it, we can’t run an efficient and safe operation, and we can’t create consistent performance benchmarks. In order to do this, we need to recognize and promote technology platforms that, along with providing automated data collection, advanced backend algorithms and seamless interoperability, also features fast and easy methods of allowing users to input data into the system. Imagine using an enterprise mobility app that routes staff through their work day in the most efficient manner, alerting them of potential “roadblocks”, whether they are dead squirrels, or in our case, localized shortages of hospital equipment and supplies. The app exists, but it only works because of reliable data. After all, we’re not collecting data for data’s sake, but to improve our lives — at home, on the road, and when we get to work.