Australia’s ageing population and the increase in chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes are driving relentless growth in hospital patient numbers. But with minimal growth in bed numbers medical professionals face pressure to reduce the length of stays, which can lead to reduced quality of care.
Lindsay Bevege – CEO of SmartWard, which has developed an innovative management tool to improve efficiencies in hospital wards, explains the critical issue facing the healthcare system, “Nurse costs are the largest single item in hospital budgets. Their role is to provide patient care, but over 30% of nurse time is lost in admin and paperwork. This is not only an incredible waste of a highly skilled resource, the distraction of nurses from caring for patients means longer recovery times for patients and longer hospital stays – driving up costs and causing needless suffering”.
Realising much needed efficiencies in hospitals
Smart Ward is a game-changer for hospitals. It frees up nurse time, automates care and provides decision support. Nurses and clinicians can spend more time with patients instead of paperwork. “Our trials completed with Eastern Health and Epworth Healthcare demonstrated that SmartWard can free-up at least 15-20% of nurse time and probably much more. This equates to freeing up approximately $16-20,000 per bed per year,” continued Mr Bevege.
SmartWard runs on computers at each patient bedside and at all other points-of-care, providing up-to-date information on scheduled activities and patient alerts and allows automatic, real time entry of treatment records. “This technology changes the way nurses work – from away-from-bed, to beside the bed. In the trial, it trebled time spent nurses spent interacting with patients from 8% to 24%”.
Global impact for hospital administrators
The strategic value of the tool to hospital administrators is huge. “It is well-established in international studies that increasing the time nurses spend with patients reduces errors leading to shorter average lengths of stays in hospitals and fewer patient deaths. Using these studies, we conservatively estimate that $5m in savings can be realised in an average sized hospital through the shorter lengths of stay alone. This will increase the throughput of patients and reduce waiting lists,” said Mr Bevege.
The reduced length of stay and saving in nurse time represents the low hanging fruit for the business. Upside to hospital administrators includes automated care planning, audit trail efficiency, as well as demonstrated compliance with best clinical practices the Federal Government’s new National Safety and Quality Standards.
“The data captured can also be pattern-analysed and formatted for clinical and administrative purposes and to refine patient treatment plans – currently impossible in day-to-day clinical practice.”
Simultaneously beneficial to patients, nurses, doctors and hospital administrators, independent research has shown that health care professionals value SmartWard for its safety and usability.
The financial and human cost of preventable errors is a major issue for the hospital system and for the community as a whole. SmartWard will reduce these. It also fills a gap in the e-Health agenda being pursued by Governments around the world.
The powerful need creates a major market opportunity and investors have gravitated towards the company. “With approximately 4 million hospital beds and 10 million aged care beds in the OECD the potential for SmartWard is significant.
“$3 million private investment, $2.25 million in Government grants and significant in-kind investment from two major hospital networks has brought us to this point. We are very fortunate that we have received further interest since listing with Wholesale Investor”.