Healthcare reform is built around lowering care costs without sacrificing care quality. This means hospitals have to find ways to trim the fat while still striving to meet high standards. The key to making that happen is efficiency – work smarter, not harder. A comprehensive plan to improve hospital efficiency begins with looking at areas and practices that cost time.
Focus on Patient Flow
Patients are the heart and soul of healthcare, but moving them to various departments is inefficient. Becker’s Hospital Review suggests focusing your attention on patient flow will naturally increase the efficiency in your healthcare organization.
One step in the right direction is to create a patient flow committee. It is their job to develop ways to ingrain the importance of improving flow efficiency into the hospital culture. They will monitor metrics by department and come up with strategies that improve the numbers. For example, they might gauge the time it takes a patient to go from admission to bed assignment, and determine bed turnover rates.
The committee can look for ways to automate repetitive processes, as well. How long does it take a nurse to notify the environmental staff that a bed is empty? Can that process be automated through IT?
Evaluate Staff Assignments
Often when a new task presents itself in a department, it is assigned in ad hoc fashion without considering whether that is the most efficient way to manage that need. Reviewing staff duty assignments can help balance workloads and reduce redundancies. At the same time, evaluate whether the facility is making the most of learning opportunities like residency training and continuing education.
Many hospitals are creating executive level positions to improve operating efficiency. A chief quality officer examines job assignments to assess quality standards, but also to see if tasks are evenly distributed. The chief learning officer looks at the educational dynamics in place and creates a strategic approach to streamline them.
Bottlenecks occur because a high number of patients receive the same treatment or service. Creating guidelines around tasks like admitting patients through the ER department, utilizing telemetry units, and triaging non-elective surgeries frees up time in these often overlooked areas. By eliminating vague language and setting specific criteria, hospitals reduce bottlenecks and improve the function of vital services.
Streamline Patient Education
Patient educators spend a lot of time explaining surgeries and recovery procedures to patients. Sometimes, when they are busy a doctor will explain these things. No matter how thorough your patient educator is, there are often questions and confusion after an explanation – causing more time to be spent with each patient. Spending time with patients is not all bad, it is only bad when it becomes inefficient. Tools like medical animation can help streamline patient education. You can show your patient a video and then allow time for follow-up questions.
Do Regular Data-Driven Reviews
Use data to monitor and educate the staff about quality care and efficiency. This allows the administration to fix problems as they happen and gives each department a sense of accomplishment. The benefit is twofold – not only will the overall efficiency of the hospital improve, but you will lower staff stress and reduce employee turnover at the same time.
Is your hospital operating at its peak? Even top hospitals around the country are finding ways to improve. Efficiency in your healthcare organization does not have to mean lower care quality. The two can work together to create a better environment for patients and doctors alike.