Hospital Throughput to Improve Patient Flow
Patient Logistics

6 Ways to Boost Hospital Throughput to Improve Patient Flow

February 13, 2023
Natalie Evenson, MSN, BSN, RN, SANE-A

The COVID-19 pandemic has escalated the healthcare crisis in the United States and brought the issue to a head. By identifying and implementing effective strategies, care teams can streamline patient throughput from admission to discharge while ensuring patient safety and delivering high-quality care. This enhances efficiency and elevates patient and provider satisfaction while maintaining cost-effectiveness.

What is Hospital Throughput?

HOSPITAL THROUGHPUT is the process of moving patients through the hospital system from admission to discharge. Evaluating hospital throughput determines how efficiently and effectively patients move through the system. It looks at the factors that enhance or inhibit patient flow.

What is Patient Flow?

PATIENT FLOW is the movement of patients throughout the facility, focusing on the specific resources and systems involved. Hospital throughput and patient flow go hand in hand, and hospitals can maximize patient flow by improving throughput.

What Factors Affect Patient Flow?

  • Staffing: Inadequate staffing will slow the efficiency of evaluating and treating patients.
  • Communication: Poor communication can cause misunderstandings and errors, leading to poor patient outcomes. The patient handoff process is a common area in which breakdowns in communication can result in delays or mistakes.
  • Inefficient systems: Healthcare has many time-consuming and laborious processes and procedures. When clinical staff spend extra time on administrative paperwork, this takes valuable time away from providing patient care at the bedside.
  • Layout and organization: Poor layout and organization can impede patient flow. When staff must spend extra time walking long distances from patient care areas to supply rooms, it slows efficiency.
  • Delays in care: Any factor that delays care will impede patient flow. For example, a nurse who cannot access a medication dose and has to call the pharmacy may have to make the phone call, wait on hold, and be transferred to speak to the correct person. This process is time-consuming and delays the patient from receiving the needed treatment.

6 Ways to Improve Hospital Throughput

Facilities can expedite patient flow by connecting with the proper resources. Enhancing patient flow and throughput will improve patient and provider satisfaction while providing reliable, safe, and cost-effective patient care. Here are some strategies to improve hospital throughput:

1. Optimizing Staff

Staffing shortages are at an all-time high in the United States. Nurses working in areas such as the Emergency Department, PACU, and procedural departments often perform tasks that non-clinical staff could complete, such as transporting patients to other areas of the hospital, cleaning and stocking rooms, and making beds. Hiring more certified nursing assistants, transporters, and housekeeping staff in areas with high patient turnover allows nurses to focus on clinical tasks like charting and providing direct patient care.

2. Improve Communication

Good communication is essential to patient care, especially during the care handoff process. Misunderstandings, errors, or omissions about a patient can occur without clear communication.

Consider using more modern solutions that include team communication in the application for nursing and non-nursing staff to prevent communication breakdowns. Using a platform like VectorCare helps decrease opportunities for errors which can lead to poor patient outcomes.

3. Enhance Efficiency

Nurses, social workers, and case managers are often responsible for arranging patient transportation from the Emergency Department to another facility. It is common to spend over 45 MINUTES making phone calls, filling out and faxing paperwork, looking up insurance coverage, and coordinating transportation. Utilizing a company such as VectorCare that streamlines the process to less than five minutes can be a time-saving tool. Hospital staff make no calls and use the VectorCare platform to send out dozens of requests to Ambulance Providers contracted to the Medical Center in one click. This process saves significant time, allowing staff to focus on patient care.  

4. Organization

Evaluate your hospital layout to ensure high-use supplies and equipment are readily available in convenient locations to increase efficiency. For example, many procedural and patient care areas have bedside supply carts stocked with high-use items such as IV supplies and lab tubes. Equipment like IV pumps and blanket warmers should be located in central locations to save time and decrease unnecessary trips to supply rooms.

5. Positive Work Environment

Implementing a positive and supportive WORK ENVIRONMENT increases productivity. Employers who invest in employees' health, well-being, and wellness see increased staff morale and happier, more productive employees.

Employers can promote a culture of teamwork, support, and healthy lifestyles through employee wellness programs, team-building activities, and employee assistance programs that promote mental and emotional health.

6. Technology

Utilizing HIPAA-compliant technology can be an effective tool for expediting patient flow. Some electronic medical record systems (EMR) allow healthcare providers to communicate via secure messaging systems. For example, a nurse can directly message the pharmacy or a provider with a non-urgent message about their patient. Rather than making multiple calls, waiting on hold, transferring, and taking nurses away from providing patient care, this method can save time and frustration.

Maximizing resources and implementing more efficient systems will positively impact patient flow.

Learn how VECTORCARE can help increase patient flow in your facility. Request a demo or send your manager HERE for further information.

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