How Allina Health cut length of stay for some patients by 18.8%

Minneapolis, Minn.-based Allina Health cut its overall length of stay across 12 hospitals by a collective total of 10% over a one-year period. The average amount of time a patient waited to be discharged from an Allina hospital into a long-term care setting or skilled nursing facility also went down by 18.8% in one year, the system's new chief operating officer, Dominica Tallarico, told Becker's.

Between 2022 and 2023, the health system was seeing a rise both in visits and overall length of stay, like many others were across the U.S., but the increasing length of stay highlighted the need for solutions and efficiency. Ms. Tallarico said at one point, there were 180 patients per day — essentially a patient group the size a medium community hospital could serve — waiting across Allina Health system to get into long-term care settings or skilled nursing facilities.

Allina then partnered with population health company Navvis to employ directors on site to assist with care coordination for patients' next site of care. The directors from Navvis worked alongside Ms. Tallarico and hospital staff to reduce unnecessary patient days, improve capacity, and improve performance by using a decision support algorithm and other evidence-based tools.

"Basically, it is a way to measure — very objectively — a patient's functionality," Ms. Tallarico said. "We also found that without using the right tools, you may not identify a patient who can leave the facility, but quite honestly, based on their functionality, they might be able to go home with home care or physical therapy, using those tools. It really was a standard that we put in place and now use for all of our patients to make sure that we're identifying great transition points for each patient for the future, and then the whole care team is informed about that."

The algorithm is being used for patient care coordination and discharge decision-making at all of Allina Health's hospitals, Ms. Tallarico confirmed.

"It can help decide which of your patients are going to meet that criteria to discharge or go to another setting, and then you can prepare for that conversation with the patient and the family, and now you can begin looking for that placement for them," Ms. Tallarico said. 

Allina also partnered with other facilities in the community and paid to have additional beds available for patients, as needed. This process allowed them to build a relationship with the partner community facilities by guaranteeing Allina would fill the beds it paid to reserve, she explained. 

"We think it was really a great partnership and created these relationships with facilities, and our staff became really closely partnered in our day-to-day work," Ms. Tallarico said. "So instead of extra beds and coordinating care being more of an afterthought, they were at the table with us as we were identifying patients and moving our patients through together, as needed."

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