Hospitals embrace creative care in 2023

For hospitals and health systems, 2023 was the year of doing more with less. Persistent staff shortages and resource constraints, coupled with rising patient volumes, pushed many organizations to implement or expand innovative care delivery approaches this year.

Virtual nursing emerged as a popular strategy for health systems to unburden bedside nurses and retain older or more experienced nurses looking for less physically intense roles. Renton, Wash.-based Providence rolled out virtual nursing to 10 sites at nine hospitals in four states this year, recognizing the need to "blow up" its traditional hospital care model to address nurse staffing issues. Syl Trepanier, DNP, RN, chief nursing officer of Providence, told Becker's in June that he "wouldn't be surprised" if a virtual nursing component existed at all of Providence's 51 hospitals in the near future, though expansion plans will largely depend on what the system learns from the initial 10 sites this year. 

Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health also rolled out a new care delivery model in 2023. The model, now live in 50 units across 10 states, partners a virtual nurse with an on-site direct care registered nurse and nursing assistant or licensed practical nurse, functioning as a single team serving patients. 

Reimagined care delivery processes also took shape in hospital emergency departments, with some organizations reporting significant operational improvements this year. Hackensack Meridian Health's Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, N.J., cut its average ED wait time to seven minutes though an initiative that involves taking ED patients straight from check in to a "triage hallway," bypassing the typical waiting room or triage room. Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., is using a similar direct bedding initiative that has shrunk its "left without being seen rate" to nearly zero and cut wait times to see a physician to under 10 minutes.

"Discharge lounges" gained notice in 2023 for their ability to improve patient experience and throughput. These specialized spaces — implemented by systems including New York City-based Montefiore Health System and Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital — give patients a quiet, comfortable place to relax during the discharge process, while also allowing hospitals to turn around beds more quickly, reducing the wait times for incoming patients.  

These innovative care delivery approaches reflect a broader paradigm shift for the industry and are likely to endure in 2024 and beyond as hospitals continue to navigate significant financial and operational challenges.

Editor's note: This article was updated Dec. 7 at 9:57 a.m. CT.

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