With the ever-stronger focus on quality patient care and how hospitals or health systems administer it, professional staff must use a combination of its clinical expertise, patient values, and the best research evidence to drive improvement. They’re all on the same page in wanting the facility to be the best place to receive and administer care.
Despite that common goal, how often does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? When each department or quality improvement team functions in a vacuum, it’s much more difficult for the entire organization to learn and improve. They need a single location where everyone can see the right evidence and apply it appropriately without starting from scratch.
Information silos in healthcare are the norm — but shouldn’t be
Generally, employees involved in evidence-based practice (EBP) are aware that they’re functioning in an insulated environment. They may be working in a single department on one floor in one building of a large complex, on a project relevant only to that environment. They also may have little or no awareness of the hospital’s other EBP efforts. As a result, there’s a good chance that they’re starting a project that may have been previously undertaken and not completed or one that could be refreshed.
Why don’t they know the history? Because it takes time and detective work to track down the last person knowledgeable about a related project and its results in the hospital. Teams often find it easier to just start over between personnel turnover and information scattered in multiple locations. It’s become too cumbersome to look for evidence and then spend hours reading and assessing it. This is definitely not best practice, but it is necessary given the time constraints most healthcare professionals face, now made even worse by the pandemic.
Many quality improvement chiefs and C-suite executives are also aware of the information silos. They recognize that it actually requires all disciplines and departments to work together to implement and sustain most improvements. While they’d like to see a more integrated effort — because higher quality scores translate to better reimbursements and reputation — they understand that successful quality improvement, EBP, and research projects take time and staffing, both of which are in short supply. A lack of time and too many priorities and distractions are the most significant barriers to achieving consistent change.
Efforts to break down hospital silos are limited so far
Hospitals don’t purposely choose siloed EBP; many do make efforts to share information. Spreadsheets, a company chat channel, and group meetings are just some methods for reducing or eliminating the lack of communication. But these tactics often lead to delays and the shared information is not always evidence-based, detailed, or current enough to successfully implement EBP.
Tools are also available to help guide individuals and teams through the steps of evidence-based practice. Some import citations, others help with quality assessment, and others offer reporting assistance. They might save time in that particular step of the process, but lack the unity and continuity that is truly needed to share information from beginning to end.
Implementation of evidence-based practice made easier
So how do you improve the quality of evidence-based practice?
First, the CEO and executive team must promote a culture of change and value continuous quality improvement (CQI). It’s the best way to increase influencer and stakeholder buy-in and drive advancements. Change management also takes communication, education, monitoring, and continued follow-up. If those in the C-suite aren’t champions of change, the hospital’s values will reflect that, and the silos will remain.
Next, find a single platform that establishes and coordinates EBP workflows — allowing everyone to see and learn from what has happened in the past, what’s being done now, and what is planned for the future. With templates that all participants can easily access and use, it will drive a cohesive process previously unavailable to hospitals and health systems.
What else do hospitals need? More resources. This system provides historical data, the latest applicable research, and collaboration capabilities previously unavailable to quality improvement teams. It automatically does what employees once struggled to do by hand with no time and little context. Most importantly, it eliminates unnecessary duplication of effort — something everyone from the top to the bottom of the organization can celebrate.
Besides identifying, organizing, and filtering the evidence, our new application helps teams appraise it, collaboratively, and determine whether the findings support the project’s objective by identifying critical takeaways. From dashboards offering real-time visibility to an automated assembly of evidence tables and a summary of findings, the right project management solution supports EBP implementation that benefits all stakeholders.
Florence Nightingale used evidence-based concepts to reform the nursing profession more than one hundred years before EBP was formally created. She said, "Evidence, which we have means to strengthen for or against a proposition, is our proper means for attaining truth." The opportunity to strengthen the evidence by tearing down information silos has never been more necessary or easier to attain. Don’t let it slip away!
Learn how Ovid Synthesis Clinical Evidence Manager can help break down information silos in your health institution.