The future of patient flow: 3 questions with TeleTracking's Nanne Finis & Kris Kaneta

  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large

The time patients wait to schedule a physician appointment has reached its highest point in more than a decade, according to a Merritt Hawkins report. With the physician shortage only continuing to increase, many hospitals are left wondering about the impact on patient flow.

TeleTracking, a Pittsburgh-based health IT company, has worked to bring automation to patient management since its founding 26 years ago. The company, which was established in 1991, was initially founded to address and expedite the bed turnover process — from the time a patient leaves the room until the time a new patient occupies the room.

TeleTracking has since broadened its mission to facilitate patient flow across the entire healthcare continuum — a vision it is working to educate the industry about. In September 2016, representatives from TeleTracking were invited to testify before the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health to share the company's findings on how delays in patient access leads to financial losses and poor outcomes across the healthcare industry.

"It should come as no surprise, but outcomes become objectively worse the longer a patient waits to receive care," said Kris Kaneta, vice president of marketing at TeleTracking. "In a nutshell, our mission going forward is to ensure that no patient ever waits for the care that they need."

Mr. Kaneta and Nanne Finis, RN, vice president of advisory services at TeleTracking, spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about the importance of efficient patient flow.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What does optimizing patient flow mean for TeleTracking and its mission?

Nanne Finis: We look at how patients flow through each part of the health system, at access points from point A to discharge. For example, how quickly the hospital has an appropriate bed ready for a patient, or how long they had to wait for their diagnostics. We can track time along the patient's journey, all the way to the distal end at discharge. That is so critically important; making sure that the discharge of a patient is effective, timely and is really a planned episode of care.

What we're doing right now is helping our clients as they grow their business to pre-hospital — facilitating access for patients who are coming in from clinics, for example. We are now also connecting to the post-acute side of the healthcare industry, after a patient leaves the hospital. We are in position to improve patient flow across the whole continuum of care.

Kris Kaneta: We've always been a very mission-oriented company, and we've spent the better part of the last year reframing who TeleTracking is from a mission standpoint. Five or 10 years ago our mission might have been about making sure that a patient was placed in the right bed, and three to five years ago it was really about the tremendous burden of operational waste that we see across healthcare. While all those things still hold true, today, our mission comes down to having no patient wait for the care they need, ever. Healthcare has a long way to go before it's at a meaningful point of patients getting the care they need, when they need it, where they need it across the continuum.

Q: What are some challenges to delivering automated patient flow?

NF: We have collected 26 years of proprietary information around best practices and outcomes that, when used, are able to help organizations overcome challenges in patient flow. These challenges mainly have to do with patient access, throughput and discharge. Those are the three major buckets of our work. I would also add that flow is not one person's job in a health system. It really needs executive leadership and sponsorship to champion the effort. It's not just a project for health systems — it's a way of life. This journey requires significant change and investment to sustain improvements in flow.

KK: That's really important. Access to quality care has to be a top priority for a health system, and they've got to act as though it is a top priority. This is not something that a project manager is assigned to and can solve in six to eight weeks. It is something that most definitely requires senior leadership and support. What we have found is that, when you have that senior leadership and support, the sky's the limit in terms of outcomes.

Q: What are some areas you see for growth in patient flow and management in the coming year?

NF: On the people and processes side of our work, we're starting to see physicians and other executive leaders become more engaged in the day-to-day operations or flow of their hospitals. Over the last six months, I've seen much higher physician engagement around flow, particularly in some of our better-performing clients. However, there's still a need for comprehensive education around flow, and I think that's the other key — really honing in with these executives, to say, 'what can we do to continue to make this easy and routinized for you.'

KK: One of the areas we're particularly excited about is an offering that will help hospitals and health systems easily extract and analyze their data in order to drive and sustain outcomes. For example, we're making investments in predictive analytics so that hospitals can do a better job of forecasting and capacity planning. Now, a health system will not only be able to see how it's operating, where its delays are and what its capacity is on a daily basis, but it will also be able to forecast those same numbers one, two, three, four, or five days out, and plan accordingly.

At a broader level, it has to be about shifting health IT thinking from applications or even software-as-a-service models to thinking about data as a platform. Looking ahead five years, while you should still expect to see top rated software and services from TeleTracking, it's going to be more and more about how that data is enhancing your ability to proactively drive meaningful change. At any given point in time there are about seven open beds for every two admitted patients, and yet we lose 20 million days a year just waiting to receive care. That's got to end, and I don't think that future is too far off.

Copyright © 2021 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars