Have an ER overcrowding problem? This man says he can help

Eugene Litvak claims to have the answer to overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

Mr. Litvak, a former Soviet mathematician and systems engineer, is CEO and co-founder of the Boston-based Institute for Healthcare Optimization. He is regarded by some hospital executives as a genius and a pioneer of hospital operations management improvement.

Clients who have adopted Mr. Litvak's methods said they have seen millions of dollars in added revenues and avoided unnecessary construction costs, while reducing medical errors, overtime pay and ER waiting times, according to the report.

The beginnings of Mr. Litvak's methods can be traced back to his time working at Boston University. While there, he found that hospital patient occupancy rates are extremely variable, according to the report.

"I learned that the cause of these patient spikes wasn't the overcrowded emergency rooms, but hospital operating rooms where surgeries are performed," Mr. Litvak told the Chicago Tribune. "That was an 'Aha moment' for me."

Hospitals attempt to resolve their overcrowding problem by adding more emergency room beds and building new patient wings, rather than exploring patient flow, at a cost of $1 million to $2.5 million per bed, according to the report. But Mr. Litvak discovered that the real problem was OR schedules, rather than bed shortages, the report notes.

"We found that OR surgery schedules compete for the same hospital beds as ER patients," he told the Chicago Tribune. "Surgeries are among the most lucrative hospital procedures. So hospital CEOs cultivate surgeons and allow them to perform all of their surgeries on one day per week to accommodate their busy schedules."

With these findings in mind, Mr. Litvak eventually left Boston University and co-founded IHO in 2009 to consult for hospitals. According to the report, he has since had his methods validated by the Oak Brook, Ill.-based Joint Commission, several state hospital associations and published studies.

"What Litvak recognized — and that is the true genius of his approach — is that variability of patient flow is in our control," Ellis "Mac" Knight, MD, CMO and senior vice president for the Atlanta-based healthcare consulting firm The Coker Group, told the Chicago Tribune. "We can't control how many people get sick or get in car wrecks and come into the ER, but we can control the number of elective surgeries. He showed that if you can smooth out the number of elective surgeries scheduled throughout the week, you can eliminate the peaks and valleys and dramatically impact the efficiency and safety of hospital operations," he explained.


More articles on patient flow:

Minn. ERs struggle to manage surge of psychiatric patients
Washington, DC turns to private ambulances to alleviate high demand
Patient flow talk of the town at AONE & AORN

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