Editor’s Note: This report is based on a 2018 Healthcare Analytics Summit presentation given by Yohan Vetteth, MBA, CAO, and Rudy Arthofer, RN, BSN, MHA, Administrative Director of the Hospital Operations Center, both at Stanford HealthCare, entitled, “Adding Capacity Without Construction: A Collaboration of Analytics and Frontline Operations.”
Many health systems are facing a hospital capacity problem. The demand for patient beds is greater than the number of beds available. This can lead to several negative effects, such as surgery cancellations, increased length of stay, and declining patient and staff satisfaction. While building capacity is vital to meeting demand, construction is costly and time consuming, and it isn’t always an option. This leaves health systems with the challenge of adding capacity without construction, and many are looking to healthcare analytics to help address this challenge and get ahead of demand while maintaining or improving patient outcomes and satisfaction.
The impacts of a bed capacity problem can be significant. Some academic medical centers are turning away transfer patients because there aren’t any available beds, which means patients who need specialized care cannot get it or have to travel farther to get it. Surgeries are cancelled as well—sometimes even at the last minute—putting patient satisfaction and health at risk. Surgery cancellations also interrupt workflow, which can decrease staff satisfaction. Another risk of limited capacity is an increase in emergency department boarding hours. Interestingly, some hospitals see an increased length of stay for all patients in the ED (not just those awaiting an inpatient bed) when there aren’t enough available beds.
As the population ages and grows, bed capacity will continue to be an issue unless health systems can find a viable solution.
The most important part of developing a process to manage bed capacity is creating a plan based on a collaboration of leaders and staff throughout the hospital. Having daily interdepartmental huddles is key to understanding the root of the problem and how to best address it. Solutions must focus on maintaining or improving quality and outcomes. Patient safety and patient experience need to be top of mind when initiating any change.
Data analysis can help organizations increase capacity without construction. Using available data, organizations can understand how past decisions and actions contributed to the capacity problem before they try to address it. They can also identify key process and outcome metrics across departments to inform the interventions chosen to address the dearth of beds. This can help increase transparency and measure impact.
Health systems can leverage data by creating an interactive dashboard that allows staff to dig deep into the data. This gives staff an opportunity to look at capacity constraints and understand the root of the problem in their respective areas. A dashboard also removes some pressure from the analytics team because it provides basic information staff can access without submitting a request. While a dashboard is an effective and necessary tool, it’s just part of the process because it only provides historical data, looking backward rather than forward.
Next, organizations can develop forward-looking tools that leverage the power of data science and take advantage of predictive analysis capabilities:
These tools and others like them help move organizations from the theory of problem solving through the actions that increase capacity.
Health systems that have successfully increased capacity without building new spaces follow four guidelines:
When capacity is a problem, hospital executives and other leaders can spend two to three hours per day addressing capacity management issues. When that problem is addressed through an effective capacity management process, leaders get their time back. This is a real benefit that can’t be accurately measured. Staff efficiency will also increase, as they aren’t burdened with trying to manage a lack of bed space. Instead, staff can spend their time focusing on patient care. And when patients have beds, they are more likely to feel valued and cared for—a positive effect on patient satisfaction and outcomes.
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Would you like to use or share these concepts? Download the presentation highlighting the key main points.