Synchronized Clocks: A Simple (Yet Vital) Step Toward Better Healthcare

In hospitals, timekeeping has always been a big part of daily operations. But in today’s era of healthcare reform—where intense focus has been placed on improving care quality and outcomes while simultaneously controlling costs—accurate timekeeping has become an even greater issue. Indeed, facilities that fail to implement effective timekeeping strategies are putting themselves at a serious disadvantage.

Here’s why:

First and foremost, inaccurate timekeeping can result in errors that put patients at risk. In the hospital, perhaps more than anywhere else, time is truly of the essence. In some cases, it can even mean the difference between life and death. For example, in cases where patients require medication at precise intervals—or are being treated with multiple drugs—doses must be administered in a timely manner to ensure effective treatment and to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.

But what happens if the clocks throughout a facility are not precisely synchronized? What happens, for example, if a patient is given a first dose of medication in the ICU and then moved to a bed in a different ward prior to the next dose? If the clock in the new room is not in sync with the ICU clock, the dose may be given too soon—or too late. Indeed, for certain healthcare procedures and treatments, even a 3-minute time discrepancy can have serious effect on the quality of care.

Yet that’s not the end of the story.

Timekeeping errors that negatively impact treatment not only put patients at risk, but also make hospitals vulnerable to costly malpractice claims. Unfortunately, the cost associated with malpractice—both in rising premiums and payouts—is a huge industry problem (in 2012, more than $3 billion was spent in medical malpractice payouts).

Here’s the good news: advanced tech solutions are making it easier than ever for facilities to overcome many of their timekeeping challenges. Today, sophisticated clock synchronization solutions are available that ensure every single clock—in every ward and every room in the hospital, the medical office buildings and throughout every location on the facility network—is accurate and precisely synchronized. Even better, with cloud-based services, time synchronization solutions are typically quick to implement and nearly effortless to manage.