The future of infusion centers: 4 insights on solving common scheduling challenges to benefit patients and nursing staff

Infusion centers often face big challenges with overbooking and uneven patient loads, which are challenging for both patients waiting for treatments and nurses providing care.

During a June webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by LeanTaaS, presenters from Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare Cancer Institute and LeanTaaS discussed how the LeanTaaS iQueue for Infusion Centers solution helped solve scheduling challenges. The speakers were:

  • Abbi Bruce, RN, program director of medical oncology and infusion services, Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute
  • Shannon Pindar, RN, BSN, nurse manager of medical oncology, infusion services and innovation unit at Hartford Hospital, Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute
  • Amanda DiBenedetto, RN, MSN, nurse manager of medical oncology and infusion at the Avon Cancer Center, Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute
  • Helen Gao, product implementation and customer service manager, LeanTaaS

Four insights from the discussion:
1. LeanTaaS iQueue quickly improved the level load at Hartford Hospital. Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute decided to implement iQueue in its infusion centers, beginning with Hartford Hospital, to resolve scheduling challenges. In the first two weeks of implementation, the infusion center saw a better level load of appointments across the day. The infusion center also experienced improved utilization in the early mornings and late afternoons, rather than clumped during midday peak times. "We noticed a reduction in patient wait times," Ms. Pindar said, adding that the infusion center was able to "improve patient access to treatment throughout the day."

2. Allocating nurses when considering acuity provides benefits for patients and staff. Prior to implementing iQueue, infusion center nurses often missed lunch and left late because of the number and unexpected acuity of appointments. iQueue allowed the centers to assess acuity based on drug regimens and existing patient information so that assignments could be spread out appropriately for each nurse. "It was important to educate the front-end staff and nursing to scale up for certain patients who require more [attention]," Ms. DiBenedetto said of the implementation. Since iQueue was implemented, patient wait time has decreased approximately 30 percent.

3. Staff champions, communication and collaboration are key to successful implementations. Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute engaged staff champions from the start of the project. Charge nurses were trained on the nurse allocation tool and front-end scheduling staff were involved in implementation meetings and template builds. Management and front-end staff were also involved in reviewing template compliance daily and recommending changes to the LeanTaaS team as needed. Patient and provider communication and collaboration across the infusion clinics, labs, pharmacies and other stakeholders was also a major part of the iQueue implementation.

4. A strong partnership with LeanTaaS is beneficial for infusion centers. Throughout the 18-month, 13 site implementation process and beyond, the hospitals have maintained a strong working relationship with LeanTaaS. "Our partnership with LeanTaaS has provided many opportunities to tweak our tools so they provide optimal data," Ms. Bruce said. The panelists all expect this partnership to continue. "As we look at the overall picture of infusion center operations, there are certainly some areas for improvement down the line," Ms. Gao said.

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