Patient Workflow Optimization
Patient workflow optimization improves efficiency, reduces waste, and improves patient flow and throughput, helping to ease the pressure on clinicians, improve patient safety, and reduce healthcare costs and boost profits.
Patient workflow is the sequence of administrative, mental, and physical tasks that must be performed by multiple members of staff to provide clinical services to patients. Inefficient patient workflow results in considerable waste, poor resource utilization, long wait times for patients and less than optimal patient flow.
Patient Workflow Optimization Improves Patient Flow
Patient flow is the movement of patients through a healthcare facility, from the initial entry point such as the emergency department to discharge. There are many barriers that hamper flow. Delays can occur at any stage of the patient journey, often starting with admission and occurring at many points through to and including discharge. There are many different factors that affect patient flow, including the number of patients in hospital at any given time, staffing levels, and the availability of medical equipment.
When patient flow is good, patients are triaged, diagnosed, and treated quickly and patients are generally satisfied with the healthcare services they receive. When patient flow is poor, satisfaction levels fall, and patient safety is placed at risk. Poor patient flow contributes to higher mortality rates and poor health outcomes. This is especially true for stroke victims, where rapid diagnosis and treatment is essential.
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Patient workflow optimization will help to accelerate patient flow will improve patient safety and reduce wait times, which will have a positive effect on patient satisfaction and pressure on healthcare staff will be reduced. Good patient flow is essential to the success of a hospital.
Strategies for Improving Patient Flow
Patient flow software is useful for collecting and analyzing patient flow data to identify where bottlenecks are occurring. Bottlenecks are a common occurrence in healthcare and are caused when there are more patients than can be managed with the resources available. There could be a single point of the patient journey that consistently results in delays that slow patient flow or several areas when patient workflow optimization is required, or staffing levels need to be increased. Determining where these choke points are occurring is essential for effective resource planning.
The software can help hospitals to predict when patient volume is likely to increase. While it can be difficult to predict when patient volume will increase, analyzing historical data will reveal patterns when patient volume typically increases. Resources can then be allocated accordingly. When staffing levels match patient volume, waste is reduced.
Improving communication between departments is also essential. If there is one department that is slowing patient throughput it is essential to find out the reason for the problem. Rather than have departments blaming each other for throughput issues, working closely with different departments could help with optimizing patient workflow to reduce pressure on staff at the choke point and delegating certain responsibilities to other departments.
Another problem area related to communication is reliance on outdated communication methods such as pagers. 1 in 4 hospitals still use pagers for communication, even though this method of communication is extremely inefficient. Optimizing patient workflow will only be possible to a certain point if time is being wasted on inefficient communication systems.
Optimizing Patient Workflow by Improving Communication Efficiency
Clinicians need to have access to the right information at the right time. Oftentimes, information is available, it is just not readily accessible. When information flow is poor, patient flow is negatively affected. Outmoded channels of communication such as voicemail, pagers and fax machines inhibit critical workflows and slow patient throughput. Clinicians waste a considerable amount of time chasing up pages and playing phone tag.
One of the easiest ways of optimizing patient workflow is to improve hospital communication systems. Clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platforms offer a solution. CC&C platforms use mobile technology and allow hospitals to replace pagers and faxes with secure text messaging, which is critical to successful patient workflow optimization.
Text messages can be sent almost instantly for quick consults, essential information can quickly be obtained, and faster and more effective communication helps eliminate bottlenecks that impede patient throughput. Improving communication is an important part of patient workflow optimization, and the benefits can be felt through the entire organization.
First responders and Emergency Medical Services can forewarn healthcare professionals of incoming patients and their injuries to better prepare staff in the emergency department and reduce admission delays. Hospital Emergency Room workflow efficiency is also improved for “treat and release” patients, who may otherwise be backlogged due to priority case congestion. Bed availability can be monitored with secure texting, and lab turnaround can be accelerated using the platforms.
Throughout a patient´s stay in a hospital, secure messaging enables healthcare professionals to improve hospital workflows and coordinate the transition of care, which can help to improve patient flow.