Streamlining Hospital Patient Flow

Streamlining Hospital Patient Flow: The Key to Optimizing Care Delivery

By Michael Sachs, Senior Vice President, Towne Health

Patient flow is a critical component of an efficient, successful hospital. Patient flow describes the movement of patients through the different stages of required hospital care and considers whether they are subject to unnecessary delay.¹ From arrival to discharge, patients must move through the system without friction or delays.

When this flow works well, patients get better care, they’re happier, and the hospital runs more smoothly. For example, patient flow ensures patients arrive at appointments on time, decreases overcrowding, shortens wait times, and patients can get discharged quicker. This in turn helps avoid unnecessary re-schedules, improves bed turnover rates, and increases cost savings.

To streamline hospital patient flow, hospitals must address potential bottlenecks and prioritize patient-centered solutions. When patient flow isn’t optimized or effective hospital-wide, it can put patients at risk for suboptimal care and potential harm, as well as increasing hospital staff burden.²

The Importance of Efficient Patient Flow in Hospitals

Efficient patient flow leads to better health outcomes and a more positive hospital experience.

The goal is to move patients through the hospital’s stages, from admission to discharge, as smoothly as possible. This ensures proper resource and staff utilization, and when the flow is seamless, patients receive faster and more effective treatment.

However, when patient flow is ineffective it results in several concerns, including:

  • Overcrowding: This can make hospitals less safe and increase the likelihood of errors and infections. It puts a strain on resources and staff, making it harder to provide attentive care.
  • Increased Wait Times: Patients may wait longer for everything from emergency care to routine tests and procedures. Delays can worsen health outcomes and create a more stressful experience for patients and their families.
  • Patient Dissatisfaction: When patients face long waits or feel neglected due to systemic inefficiencies, they are less satisfied with their healthcare experience. Dissatisfied patients are less likely to trust healthcare providers and adhere to treatment plans.
  • Slows Bed Turnover: Inefficient patient flow delays freeing up beds for new patients. The hospital is less able to accommodate new patients, which increases expenses.

Challenges in Hospital Patient Flow

Hospitals get extremely busy. Getting every patient from one point to another, from when they come in until they leave, can be tricky. Proper patient flow begins with the arrival experience. Slow greeting or check-in issues lead to congestion near the entrance, and confused patients and visitors who aren’t sure where to go or what to do next.

Other common bottlenecks in patient flow happen in transition moments. For example, when a patient needs to move from the emergency room to treatment or from one patient care area to another, delays happen if everyone isn’t on the same page. When it’s time for a patient to go home, waiting for test results or sorting out paperwork causes discharge delays.

It’s not just about the medical components, either. Non-clinical components also affect patient flow. The layout and logistics of the hospital play a role. How to get from one building to another, or even the location of equipment and supplies, can make a big difference in how smoothly everything runs.

Far too often, the clinical staff helps with patient flow, including patient check-in, moving patients internally, and more. However, there are more efficient uses of resources than this, as it takes nurses away from providing medical care and the tasks they are licensed to do.

Strategies for Optimizing Hospital Patient Flow

Improving patient flow requires a comprehensive approach to ensure the most efficient experience for patients and hospitals by addressing the potential bottlenecks. Some of the best solutions include:

Prioritizing Efficient Parking Solutions

Patient flow begins when patients and visitors arrive at the hospital, so efficient parking is key. Ensure patients and visitors can easily find parking to reduce their stress and time to enter the hospital.

Parking strategies minimize entry and exit congestion, allowing patients to focus on their health rather than worrying about parking hassles.

Some of the top solutions to implement for efficient parking include:

  • Valet parking: Improve the patient arrival experience with ticketless valet. The patient or visitor receives a virtual ticket to their cell phone and requests vehicle retrieval at the end of their visit via text. Valet provides personalized experience and can also assist with wayfinding.
  • Designated drop-off areas: Keep the hospital entryway traffic-free and accessible with a designated drop-off area.
  • Smart parking space allocation: Optimize the parking layout and traffic flow within the parking lot to reduce traffic and streamline the arrival process.

Implement Functions to Support Efficient Flow

Here are some of the key functions to support patient flow:

  • In-Patient Transport Services: Quickly and safely move patients between departments to reduce transfer times and ensure on-time appointments with in-patient transport services.
  • Entrance Operations: Entrance Operations welcomes patients, manages screening, and offers personalized guidance (including wheelchair escort) to help patients and visitors efficiently navigate through the hospital. It will help them make it to their appointments on time with far less stress.
  • Efficient Discharge Processes: Improve the patient discharge process by implementing strategies like a discharge lounge where an attendant supports patient exit and tracks patient flow so your hospital staff can focus on providing medical care. This reduces bottlenecks and improves bed availability.

Incorporate Advanced Technology and Data Analytics

Advanced technology and data analytics are game changers in optimizing hospital patient flow.

  • Electronic Health Records (EHRs) provide a seamless flow of patient information, enhancing coordination across departments.
  • Patient tracking systems offer real-time insights into patient location and status, enabling swift decision-making and reducing wait times.
  • Predictive analytics can help you forecast patient admissions and discharges. Use it to prepare and allocate resources efficiently.

Enhancing Communication and Coordination

When doctors, nurses, and other staff members communicate effectively, patients can move seamlessly from one stage of their care to the next without unnecessary waiting.

Hospital staff must coordinate efficiently across multiple departments and with outside services, like transportation and parking. This teamwork helps everyone know what’s happening and what needs to be done next. Effective collaboration enhances the speed and comfort of every patient during the transition.

Adopting Patient-Centered Care Models

Focus on what patients need and want during each step of their healthcare journey. Set up care pathways that prioritize the patient to ensure each person gets quality care without delays.

When integrated care teams adopt a patient-centered care model, they can make the patient’s experience smoother and more efficient in turn improving patient satisfaction. This approach helps patients feel more looked after and helps the hospital improve operational efficiency.

Introducing Towne Health’s “Comprehensive Patient Flow Enhancement (CPFE)”: A Unified Approach

Comprehensive Patient Flow Enhancement (CPFE) is a new way to make hospitals work better for patients. CPFE combines parking solutions with other key support services to provide a holistic solution to improving patient flow.

This unified approach includes the following key functions:

  • Complete hospital parking solutions: CPFE makes parking hassle-free, which means one less thing for patients and their families to worry about.
  • Entrance Operations: Entrance Operations is a comprehensive solution to ensure seamless arrival for patients and visitors. Wayfinding, visitor management, and safety screenings ease the stress of navigating complex hospital settings.
  • In-patient transport: Friendly staff guide patients and visitors to on-time appointments. Our patient care concierge makes the hospital feel less like a maze.
  • Efficient discharge process: When it’s time to leave, the process is quicker via the Discharge Lounge. A better discharge process helps free up beds and avoid delays.

Towne Health’s innovative solutions help with everything from finding a parking spot to getting around the inside of the hospital. CPFE tackles common headaches like confusing parking, moving patients around the hospital quickly, helping visitors find their way, and getting patients checked out smoothly when ready to go home.

This approach improves the hospital experience for everyone and delivers a seamless arrival through discharge for patients, visitors, and staff. By focusing on these often-overlooked details, CPFE helps hospitals keep appointments on time, better serve patients, and efficiently leverage internal resources.

Conclusion

The best hospital experience is free of delays and hassle. Optimizing patient flow helps prevent delays and ensure quality care. It’s also vital for operation efficiency and smart resource allocation throughout the hospital.

Improving hospital patient flow requires a comprehensive approach that addresses patient arrival, internal transport, and discharge.

That’s where the Comprehensive Patient Flow Enhancement (CPFE) by Towne Health comes in.

It’s a smart plan that addresses everything from easy parking to helping patients get around inside the hospital. These complete support services reduce wait times and ensure a better patient experience. By improving the small details throughout the patient journey, CPFE streamlines patient flow and facilitates enhanced healthcare outcomes.

Ready to enhance your hospital’s patient flow and achieve better care delivery? 

Discover how Towne Health is pioneering advancements in patient flow to transform healthcare delivery. Connect with Michael Sachs on LinkedIn to explore how our tailored solutions can enhance your facility’s operational efficiency and patient care. Leverage our expertise and join us in setting new standards for healthcare excellence.


Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10910643/
  2. https://www.ihi.org/
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