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Inside the Tech El Camino Health Is Using to Fight the Nurse Burnout Crisis

Deb Muro, CIO of El Camino Health, explained some of the ways her health system is using technology to make nurses’ jobs easier — including software that flags patients who are at risk of adverse outcomes and a tool that helps frontline nurse managers better engage with their staff.

Before she became the CIO of Bay Area-based El Camino Health, Deb Muro was a practicing nurse. She knows firsthand just how stressful and draining the nursing profession can be — which is part of the reason why she believes hospitals should be finding more ways to leverage technology to make these workers’ days easier.

“For our labor force, we want to remove responsibilities that can be automated — because then we can focus the limited resources that we have on the most important work,” Muro said this month during an interview at the Reuters Digital Health conference in San Diego.

For instance, many health systems, including El Camino, have begun to automate the entry of vital signs into the EHR, she pointed out. She also said that El Camino is starting to explore virtual nursing and its potential to speed up processes like admission and discharge.

Muro said that when she worked as a nurse, one of the things that concerned her most deeply was that she couldn’t spend very much time with any individual patient when she had a high patient load.

Nowadays, most nurses have a pretty high patient load. To address this concern, El Camino rolled out a tool in its EHR that its workers refer to as the deterioration index. 

“It takes data from the patient record — the vital signs, the labs, all of those parameters —  and predicts which patients are trending downward and who could have a bad event. It then signals a team to come and assess the patient when they appear to be on a downward spiral,” Muro explained. “That has prevented code blues — and it’s prevented the nurses who are caring for those patients from having to see their patient have a bad outcome, which is very hard for nurses.”

She noted that this tool fits in well with the greater philosophy at El Camino — which is that it’s always better to be predictive than reactive.

Muro highlighted Laudio’s technology as another tool that has been helpful in El Camino’s journey to make nurses happier. The startup’s technology assists frontline nurse managers by integrating their core workflows into a single platform and automating their repetitive work, and it also has features to help managers better engage with their staff.

For example, Laudio’s platform sends nurse managers reminders about team members’ birthdays and work anniversaries so that they can recognize them. It also gives managers reminders to schedule check-ins with new hires, as well as alerts them when a nurse has been working long hours and might be at risk of burnout.

“We’re excited to use more of that technology to enable the manager to know which nurse or staff member they need to spend more time with. When they know which ones are at risk, they can intervene before the person decides to leave, or decides to leave the field totally,” Muro declared.

She also pointed out something important El Camino does that not all health systems do — involve their nurses in the IT department.

For the nurse informaticists in El Camino’s IT department, the main goal is to make sure that nurses’ wants and needs are accounted for when the hospital develops, upgrades or buys new technology, Muro said. These nurse informaticists always present plans for new tech programs to their nursing councils and gather feedback, which is used to inform the program’s design and rollout, she explained.

Photo: Hiraman, Getty Images