How revamping the command center can remove entrenched barriers to efficient patient flow

Having a dynamic command center is critical to managing patient flow efficiently.

Yet, most hospital command centers today are over-centralized and run on static data, which does not reflect the reality of clinical workflows and slows down patient throughput.

During a June Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by LeanTaaS, two LeanTaaS leaders — Bill Griffith, operational excellence principal, and Jason Harber, vice president of client services for inpatient flow — discussed strategies to improve patient flow management via modernizing command center operations.

Three key insights were:

  1. To streamline patient flow, command centers must be equipped with the right capabilities. The “magic formula” consists of having three key elements in place:
    • Artificial intelligence: the ability to deploy real-time predictive analytics about everything that goes on inside a health system.
    • Workflow automation: the ability to automate interactions across a distributed network.
    • Change management: the ability to drive change in the way people work.

    By equipping command centers with those tools, organizations can transform four patient flow processes characterized by onerous manual workflows: capacity management, discharge planning, nurse staffing and performance management.

    “If we have a discharge barrier, automation lets us identify it and notify that person that they’re the barrier,” Mr. Harber said. “Automation is the core element of creating this digital network across your system."

  2. iQueue centralizes data into a single dashboard and creates distributed connectedness. LeanTaaS' iQueue for Inpatient Flow platform streamlines the four patient flow processes by monitoring multiple data points across the organization, keeping track of supply and demand, prioritizing action points and sending out nudges to staff members in charge of taking specific actions, such as discharging patients at the optimal time.

    The platform also obtains a real-time view of staffing, predicts staffing needs up to eight weeks in advance and coordinates staff scheduling, thus acting as a centralized source of truth and eliminating the need for coordination via phone calls.
  3. Hospitals that use iQueue have seen improvements in patient flow. Baptist Health, an 11-hospital health system in Arkansas, was experiencing elevated loss of patient transfers, long lengths of stay and an inefficient decentralized nurse staffing process. The organization partnered with LeanTaaS to build out a modern command center to address these issues.

    Baptist's transformation journey included five steps of reorganizing the structure and workflow of the command center: 

    • Establishing a governance team
    • Redefining the role of the transfer center
    • Hardwiring capacity management practices
    • Standardizing discharge planning
    • Centralizing staffing across the system

    "They believed that technology could support them in this transition both from a people standpoint and from a process and outcomes standpoint," Mr. Griffith noted.

    The results confirmed that belief. In the first month after getting the revamped command center up and running, Baptist achieved 8 percent reduction in length of stay, 60 percent increase in patient transfers and 12 percent decrease in boarding time at some of its hospitals. 

"Predictive and automated technology is an absolute requirement for creating sustainable change — and the ROI opportunity for any health system is truly massive," Mr. Harber said.

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