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Could Improved Patient Flow Help Accelerate Care?

Improving patient load and patient flow may accelerate progress toward quality care, according to a perspective published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Fluctuations in patient volumes make care protocols impossible to follow and will necessarily extend waits for care while providers figure out how to determine which individuals need care most urgently. In addition, shortcuts to care may become the norm, rather than the exception.

Hospitals are overcrowded, though between 33 and 35 percent of beds are empty at any given time. The problem of hospital overcrowding appears to be somewhat illusory.

A portion of the periodic overcrowding is artificial, the article suggests, especially when it comes to admitting privileges and physician preference. Preferential scheduling creates artificial patient demand and overcrowding, which can increase strain on the system and decrease quality of care.

Directly addressing the causes of artificial patient demand could save Medicare, fund research and serve other private and public purposes, according to the article.

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