Closing the Loop – Creating a Culture of Exceptional Patient Care

Posted by Brenda Aubin on February 16, 2016
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The term I’d like to define for you today is “closed loop care.” It’s not that this term hasn’t been used in the healthcare industry, but I feel it’s important to solidify and standardize its meaning so that anyone providing patient care (particularly in a hospital setting) can effectively monitor, deliver, measure and improve in this area. In order to understand what closed loop care is, it’s important to first imagine what an open care loop looks like. It’s the typical course of care at most facilities today.

A patient pushes the call button at his bedside. A staff member at the desk answers the patient to ask how she can help. The patient explains that he needs to use the bathroom. The staff member at this point either leaves her duties at the desk to search for someone who can help the patient, or she waits until someone walks by the desk because she’s too busy to leave her station. We’ll assume the staff member stops a clinician who was passing by to assist with the patient. The clinician is not assigned to the specific room but says she can help. On her way to the patient’s room, however, she gets sidetracked. Maybe a physician calls her into a room or a beeping IV pump gets her attention. In any event, despite her best intentions, she does not respond to the patient’s need.

In this example, the patient eventually gets what he needs, but not in a timely or satisfactory manner. This pattern can also be a safety concern, increasing the chances of a patient fall or missing an important communication.

Closed loop care, on the other hand, can effectively monitor, deliver, measure and improve care, especially in a hospital setting.

In a closed loop system of care, the request is immediately routed to the most appropriate staff member (based on responsibilities, assignments and type of request). The request, the staff response and the time the task is completed are recorded in the system.

When I reference “closing the loop on care,” I’m simply referring to the act of ensuring care is delivered in a timely, effective and nurturing way.

But what does that mean?

We have all experienced situations as consumers where a brand failed to live up to its promises or a customer service representative failed to follow through and “close the loop” for us on a specific request. At the same time, we also have stories of brands that have surprised and delighted us with their responsiveness, dependability, high-quality products and positive experiences.

Hospitals face the same challenges and expectations as these consumer brands. Your customers (patients) have specific expectations (improved health + positive experience). To successfully deliver, you must close the loop.

Patient requests and care needs can frequently slip through the cracks for any hospital unit. Things get busy fast, and most hospitals are simply not equipped to monitor, manage and triage patient requests in a way that ensures they are closing the loop on patient care.

I encourage you to embrace the idea of closed loop care and use this language within your hospital as you discuss new priorities for the year ahead. Rallying your clinical team around the idea of closing the care loop is an easy way to articulate an important set of issues that rarely are addressed in a comprehensive way.

Ready to close the loop on care?

As we saw in our example of a closed loop system, there is tremendous value in improving your hospital’s ability to create accountability for the care you provide. That is why we created a free e-book that includes the four key benefits of a closed loop system, a diagram that illustrates the anatomy of a closed loop system and more to help you make the case for closing the care loop.

What steps has your organization taken toward closing the loop on patient care? What are your biggest hurdles? Let us know in the comments.New Call-to-action

Topics: Blog, Patient Safety

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