There are Big Bucks in Better Patient Flow

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media , February 8, 2010

Their queuing analysis showed that they needed to have one room for urgent cases, and allowed all the others to be scheduled for elective surgeries so there would be no gaps, bumping or delays. "So it reduced the overtime Heartland Health had, so they achieved more than their goal and they exceeded their targeted saving," Dempsey adds.

Next, the oversight committee created a set of scheduling rules and designed a block-room schedule. And, Paden says, to ensure the committee could effectively enforce the rules and the schedules they worked with the hospital administration so that any staff complaints or requests for exceptions with the new program were re-directed to the committee.

"Once we started blocking the rooms, we could see more cases, but it caused many of our surgeons to have to rearrange their office schedules," Paden explains. In doing so, however, the facility could schedule more surgeries during the day increasing revenue (note, revenue increase figures were not available), driving up patient satisfaction and reducing staff overtime costs by over half.

"We learned to staff to the blocks, which we didn't do at first. When we started doing this there was a huge change," she adds. "But by far, the biggest win has been getting the engagement of the physicians in the process."

Dempsey notes Heartland was able to save the equivalent of six FTEs and "make life much more predictable for the staff and physicians."

Equally important, the act of correcting the patient flow helped the facility save money and with more available time to schedule operations they will likely increase revenue along with patient and employee satisfaction. So, before you let your patient flow problems fester, it's time to step back and begin to analyze the flow—doing so may just be the best cost cutting effort you'll pursue all year.

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Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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