OHSU Knight Cancer Center uses tech to improve infusion center operations, boost satisfaction

When demand for infusion chairs isn't well managed, patient wait times can be long and infusion nurses can feel overwhelmed.

The good news is that technology can improve the experience for patients and employees.

During an April webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by LeanTaaS, Tyler Van Brunt, assistant nursing director at Oregon Health & Science University, and Danielle Zhou, project implementation and success manager at LeanTaaS, shared how OHSU is using LeanTaaS to flatten midday peaks at its infusion centers and help nurses end their shifts on time.

OHSU is Oregon's only academic medical center. Its Department of Community Hematology Oncology has five infusion clinics in the community network and a clinic at the academic medical center.

Three key takeaways:

1. OHSU infusion centers used to be like the Wild West. "The processes that inpatient units use to deliver reliable, quality care don't exist in the ambulatory setting. In our infusion centers, we were struggling to satisfy patient demand, particularly during peak hours, and we weren't effectively using our infusion chairs throughout the day," Mr. Van Brunt said. Infusion center teams experienced their biggest peaks in activity between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and none of the staff had time for a break or lunch. "We weren't operating very efficiently. Patients waited for long periods and nurses had to stay late. We weren't using our resources effectively and our most valuable resource is the people we work with," Mr. Van Brunt said.

2. After using LeanTaaS iQueue for Infusion Centers for six months, OHSU infusion centers experienced dramatic operational improvements. Mr. Van Brunt shared that after adopting LeanTaaS iQueue, the number of days when infusion centers operated past their scheduled closing times decreased by 31 percent. "Nurses could actually rely on being finished at 5:30 p.m., which improved their ability to make plans after the work day," Mr. Van Brunt said. "I can't overemphasize how important this was for our teams."

In addition, Mr. Van Brunt said, completed peak chair utilization decreased by 13.6 percent. This has enabled OHSU to increase patient appointments and take a more strategic approach to opening access to unutilized chairs. Since patient throughput is predictable, bottlenecks no longer occur in the mixing room and drug wait times decreased by 5 percent. The data from iQueue has enabled OHSU to accurately estimate wait times for infusion patients. "Advertising wait times and hitting them has been a patient and nurse satisfier," Mr. Van Brunt noted.

3. OHSU plans to optimize iQueue for Infusion Centers at existing centers and deploy it at several new facilities. Looking ahead, OHSU sees capacity management as a way to get the most out of staff, without overwhelming them. The organization also plans to integrate acuity metrics into scheduling. "Our clinics today use purely intensity-based metrics to staff clinics. We plan to work with LeanTaaS to integrate our intensity scales with acuity metrics so we can better understand how we're using chairs and staff," Mr. Van Brunt said.

Thanks to iQueue for Infusion Centers, OHSU's infusion centers now have a predictable environment, which has helped the organization retain its nurses and improve its patient experience scores in the scheduling and predictability arenas. "LeanTaaS has been an incredible partner. The team from iQueue is a breath of fresh air and their customer service is second to none. They are the unsung heroes within our department," Mr. Van Brunt said.

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