Automation simplifies capacity management, improves work environment at Florida health system — 3 insights

Managing inpatient capacity is a complex balancing act of coordinating bed availability, patient throughput and staffing needs in unison to ensure that physical and human resources are available to accommodate patient care demand, both in real time and with awareness of what will be needed in the future.

During a March webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Hospital IQ, Jason Harber, COO and chief strategy officer at Hospital IQ, and Patti Canitano, division director of patient throughput at Health First, a four-hospital health system based in Rockledge, Fla., discussed the complexities of inpatient operations, showed how artificial-intelligence-enabled automation can decrease those complexities and shared how Health First implemented automation at scale across its system — and the results it realized.

Three key insights:

  1. Numerous systemic issues make it extremely difficult to manage inpatient capacity. According to Mr. Harber, limited capacity can mean long patient wait times, inefficient throughput leads to delayed discharges, and unbalanced staffing can result in unmanageable workloads and increased turnover. "And just when we think we understand the game, our patients begin moving," Mr. Harber said. "They don't just receive care in one area; they may receive care in multiple areas every single day. We have new patients coming in, others begin leaving and before you know it, those systemic complexities create an environment that is very complex. You begin to understand why it's so hard to operate inside of this organization with a completely manual process" for managing inpatient capacity. 
  2. Hospital IQ changes the way health systems work by dynamically managing capacity, orchestrating staff actions and removing operational silos. The first step is to develop a central location for all operational data, Mr. Harber said. "Then, we need to be able to predict barriers at a macro level, so we can provide the ultimate level of situational awareness to the organization." The next step is to use this information to inspire action. For example, if Hospital IQ predicts an intensive care unit capacity constraint tomorrow afternoon, staff can begin working to decompress the ICU today. "That can be a very specific message that goes to your case management or physician teams or maybe even that ICU leader," he said. Actions may include systematic downgrades, float pool planning and a focus on discharge efficiency.
  3. Health First successfully achieved its vision of proactive capacity management across its four-hospital system using Hospital IQ. One of Health First's goals was to reduce patient discharge time. "Prior to Hospital IQ, we had a very manual system and an inability to prioritize patient discharges," Ms. Canitano said. "We really had a lack of visibility into what was going on at each hospital, let alone the entire system." 

Hospital IQ helped Health First automate patient prioritization and streamline care team communications. "For instance, case managers identify and add barriers to discharge into Hospital IQ, which translates into the daily work lists for ancillary departments," she said. "It's constantly updated throughout the day to ensure that they're focusing on the right patient at the right time." Health First reduced its length of stay by 6 percent across all hospitals, according to systemwide data presented by Ms. Canitano. In addition, Hospital IQ has helped the system repurpose 2,600 employee hours every week and reduce core staff floating by 44 percent.

By harnessing the power of automation to better manage capacity with solutions like Hospital IQ, health systems can increase revenue and margins, boost quality and improve the staff work environment.

To view the webinar on demand, click here.

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