How Emory Winship Cancer Institute implemented a data-driven approach to nurse staffing: 6 insights 

Consisting of 11 hospitals, 12 infusion centers, and more than 95,000 patients treated annually, Atlanta-based Emory Healthcare has turned to tech-based clinical decision support tools to optimize nurse staffing schedules and patient flows. 

During a May 6 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by LeanTaaS, Emory Winship Cancer Institute executives shared how the center teamed up with LeanTaaS to better manage these clinical operations and reduce patient wait times across its oncology and specialty care infusion centers. 

The presenters were: 

  • Erin Peone, MSN, RN, senior manager for clinical services and operations at Emory Winship Cancer Institute 
  • Colleen Lewis, MSN, clinical operations director and lead APP for the Phase 1 Clinical Trial program at Emory Winship Cancer Institute
  • Lana Uhrig, PhD, RN, vice president of cancer nursing at Emory Winship Cancer Institute 

Six takeaways: 

1. Emory Winship Cancer Institute began working with LeanTaaS in June 2017, implementing the company's iQueue system across its infusion centers. After piloting the decision support tool at its Clifton infusion center, this 59-chair site, the largest and busiest in the system, saw dramatic results initially. These included saw a 21 percent decrease in patient wait times, a 3 percent improvement in the Press Ganey score for Patient Satisfaction, and a 5.2 percent decrease in staff overtime hours year over year. 

The success at the pilot site has led Dr. Uhrig and her team to implement the solution systemwide.

2. Having a vision in place for not just deploying but also maintaining LeanTaaS' iQueue decision support tool after implementation has been vital to Emory's success with Clifton, according to Dr. Uhrig.

"It's really important that your vision is thinking about where ... you want to go," Dr. Uhrig said. "It's not just something where you implement a tool and then, suddenly, all your problems go away. It really is important to think about, as you're approaching the decision to use these tools, that it's a continual improvement and process of upkeep, refinement and training for new leaders who are coming into your organization so they understand how to use it and maximize the functionality." 

3. Care in the infusion center is complex and fast paced, which requires navigating tricky schedules to ensure that nurse staffing matches patient needs at each hour of the day, Ms. Peone said. This is essential to balance patient safety, nurse satisfaction and fiscal stewardship. 

"The variety of patient populations we serve also adds an additional layer of complexity when it comes to scheduling," she said. "We have to ensure that each day we have enough nurses with their specific skills such as clinical trials expertise to cover the scheduled patients."

Despite the complexity of delivering infusion care, a tool like iQueue made the process of building predictable, optimized appointment and staffing schedules simple and straightforward.

4. Emory is using iQueue to standardize its processes and best practices across its entire infusion service line. To do this, Ms. Lewis said the center adopted the following optimization strategy: The base of the work depends on an optimized schedule template that comprises data trends seen at each of the system's infusion centers. 

5. After building its nurse schedule template on data-driven insights, such as most frequent appointment types, the infusion centers can address ideal patient flows and trends across the facilities. 

"We [are] really optimizing our nurse scheduling in a data-driven way to ensure that we have enough early coverage and enough late coverage so that we also have a nice flow of nursing staff to mirror the needs of patient flow throughout the centers," Ms. Lewis said. 

6. Further results from Emory's implementation have included:

  • 86% decrease in median overtime hours
  • 71% decrease in manager time required for schedule maintenance
  • 44% decrease in patient wait times -- less crowded waiting rooms during COVID
  • 6% decrease in hours worked per pay period)

For more details, click here to view the webinar presentation.


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