Making Data Visibility a Priority in Hospital Capacity Management

The advanced technology hospitals have access to today presents numerous opportunities for hospitals to use data to drive efficiency and quality improvements. However, hospitals can benefit from the large amounts of available data only if the data is visible to the appropriate people. Darin M. Vercillo, MD, a co-founder and CEO of patient flow product and consulting firm Central Logic, and Kari Allen, RN, patient flow consultant at Central Logic, discuss the importance of data visibility in managing capacity at hospitals.

Current data use
Data on the location of patients, employees and supplies can be valuable in tracking patient flow and determining the availability of resources in the hospital. Other data, such as patient volume in different departments and the status of rooms, can also help hospitals maintain efficiency and high-quality care.

Currently, however, many hospitals glean capacity management-related data from unrelated systems, such as revenue cycle systems, to monitor patient flow. "Hospitals for the most part have either manual systems or try to utilize other systems that were built for financial purposes," says Ms. Allen. "They try to tag on to these systems, but they weren't created for the robust needs of what today's hospital capacity management is all about."

In addition to gathering data from disparate sources, hospitals often don't have the capability to share this data throughout the organization. "They're deriving a lot of the [capacity management] knowledge from other systems, but there's no or limited connectivity," Dr. Vercillo says. "They need better tools for visibility to understand data retrospectively and prospectively, so they can make decisions in a timely fashion."

Power of data visibility
If hospitals adopt a system designed for capacity management that makes data visible, they will be able to respond to patient flow needs in real time and predict future resource needs based on historical volume patterns. "Traditionally, utilization review committees oftentimes looked at data 30 days or 60 days after the fact," Dr. Vercillo says. "They were making decisions based on things happening last month or trends from 60 days ago; it was very ineffective. Getting visibility of data in real time, analyzing that quickly and bringing that to the C-suite so the CEO or CNO can act on it, is a best practice."

Resistance to change

Often, however, physicians and employees are resistant to implementing new technology because they perceive the change as extra work. Hospitals can gain buy-in for capacity management technology by demonstrating how it will not add, but replace, tasks and will make workflows more efficient. "Make it part of their workflow — what they do as their daily in-the-trenches work," Dr. Vercillo says.

Ms. Allen says it is helpful for hospitals to communicate their goal for the new technology to employees and physicians and to relate the goal directly to patient care. "Create a guiding principle for the project," she says. "The reason we're doing this is to improve care for patients and access for patients — we're advocating for patients who are not even in the facility right now."

More Articles on Capacity Management:

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Washington Launches 7 Best Practices to Reduce Unnecessary ED Visits

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