Benefits of Breast Milk Scanning Technology: Three Approaches to Securing Executive Team Buy-In

Three Approaches to Securing Executive Team Buy-In

Jaylee Hilliard, MSN, RN, NEA-BC & Grace Dwyer, MS, MA, RD, LDN, IBCLC

When exploring new breast milk scanning technology in your hospital, engaging with healthcare executives and gaining their buy-in can be challenging. With so many priorities in healthcare and limited resources to support critically ill patients, where you invest matters, particularly when it comes to patient safety. Therefore, clearly and concisely demonstrating the true value of a particular technology and its impact on patient outcomes, staff efficiency and accuracy, and the hospital’s bottom line is more important than ever before.  Exploring new milk scanning technology for your hospital can be challenging, especially when one must engage healthcare executives and gain their buy-in.

Milk and formula barcode scanning technology is a best practice for safe feeding and an efficiency booster for staff. However, amidst competing hospital priorities, you might only have one chance to make a case for purchasing and implementing this technology. Below you’ll find top tips to help frame the most compelling argument for this investment to help you make a winning case.

Highlighting the ROI for Hospital Value

Leading industry organizations, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Agency for Health Research and Quality, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, recognize human milk scanning as an essential safety practice. It’s vital to let hospital leaders know that these benefits extend beyond patient safety, including efficiency and cost savings. Demonstrating tangible hospital return on investment (ROI) is critical in the executive buy-in process.

More accurate, efficient milk management can deliver ROI in varied ways. These include:

  • Enhanced Safety. Breast milk scanning systems prevent the human errors endemic in the hospital environment. Not only does this enhance safety for your patients, but it also improves support and peace of mind for your clinical team. Preventing misadministration, recipe errors, and contamination (from expired milk) throughout the feeding process can significantly impact the quality of care you provide.
  • Reduces Risk. Errors in the feeding process pose legal and reputational costs for hospitals. Feeding error litigation can be time-consuming and costly, while dissatisfied families may share negative experiences with their social networks. Preventing feeding errors helps create and sustain happier customers, plus boosts employee morale that you’re providing safer care.
  • Improved Accuracy. Neonatal and pediatric nutrition regimens and products are more sophisticated than ever, presenting more potential for error. Software features like recipe calculators and scanning specific additives help ensure that what providers order is exactly what patients receive.
  • Elevated Efficiency. Amidst juggling many other critical tasks, nurses are also responsible for feeding management. This can include feeding and monitoring, thawing, mixing, labeling, and logging patient-specific nutrition data. Breast milk scanning technology supports more efficient preparation, feeding, and documentation workflows, ultimately freeing up resources for other clinical tasks.
  • Reduced Waste. The amount of wasted milk in hospitals can be staggering. For example, as much as 43% of donor milk may be discarded in the NICU. Milk management systems with inventory insights can help hospitals stay better informed about what milk is available and in what order it will expire.

Leading with the Reality Check: Calculating the True Impact of Feeding Errors

Managing risk is of the utmost importance for healthcare executives. Ensuring safe human milk in a healthcare environment is a complex process with as many as 282 potential points for error. One of the most serious is administering the wrong milk to the wrong infant. Therefore, when introducing milk scanning technology to key stakeholders, it is critical to clearly demonstrate how next-generation feeding and management solutions are well-positioned to help hospitals minimize exposure to threats.

Risks related to milk mismanagement are plentiful and can range from lower patient satisfaction scores to the potential for litigation and reputational damage. Any of these potential threats can substantially impact a hospital’s bottom line.

Research has demonstrated the impacts of scanning systems on error prevention, giving us a sense of how many errors would have otherwise gone undetected. For example, a recent review from Steele and Bixby found that barcode scanning prevented human milk errors 1226 times over seven years and prevented formula errors 480 times over 2.5 years. This equates to an average of 3.4 human milk errors and 3.7 formula errors per week, respectively.

These feeding errors can have medical consequences that, in turn, have high financial and psychological costs. Feeding expired milk or formula contaminated with bacteria can result in necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) or sepsis, for which a single case can cost $400,000-$500,000 (for surgical NEC) and up to $129,632 (for sepsis). Human milk misadministration can transmit infectious disease, requiring a series of labs for both parent and baby; lab testing the mother and child in question for HIV alone would cost around $508.

Misadministration errors also cost hospitals human resources. Nurses and their supervisors must spend time on incident reporting and navigating this sensitive issue with families. Today’s average hourly wage for Registered Nurses is $40 per hour but can be much higher, given bonuses and travel nursing fees amidst the current staffing challenges. Healthcare providers must also communicate with impacted families, order appropriate labs and follow-up care, and document the event. This diverts much-needed resources away from direct patient care in a setting where resources may already be strained.

Creating a Sense of Urgency: Why the Time is Now

Many facilities seek to gain an advantage over industry peers in a competitive hospital environment. More and more hospitals are looking for a streamlined approach to feeding and milk management to keep their patients and staff safe while staying current with best practices – and this message is one tactic for building a sense of urgency for adopting milk scanning technology. US News & World Report includes correct breast milk administration as a criterion for ranking hospitals (“matching breast milk with correct infants: success in ensuring that newborns receive breast milk from the correct source”), demonstrating milk tracking as a benchmark.

A second key message is arming healthcare executives with data that demonstrates how much their traditional approaches to milk management are truly costing them daily, monthly, and annually, as outlined above. One way to communicate this message is to take the number of errors experienced in your unit over the last year and multiply that by the cost of time and materials. Statistics are also available to demonstrate the estimated cost to the organization’s reputation. Next, utilize the statistics above to calculate unknown or unreported errors that are likely to have occurred in your unit.

The road to securing executive buy-in for investment in breast milk scanning technology isn’t always straightforward. Hopefully, the information we have provided can arm you to feel more confident when making the case. Ultimately, adopting milk scanning technology can empower healthcare organizations to offer another critical layer of support to everyone involved in caring for a hospital’s youngest, most vulnerable patients.

Want a Cheat Sheet to help with your evaluation process? Click Here to access this valuable resource.