Effective patient flow is one of the best ways to improve customer care and patient safety. A health organization should prioritize managing patient flow and implement protocols for more efficient patient throughput. We’ll list fifteen tips for improving your patient flow for maximum efficiency.
What is Patient Flow, and Why is it Important?
Patient flow is your health organization’s plan for moving patients within the facility. An effective patient flow requires internal systems, resources, and dynamic decision-making. Creating a patient flow system is critical to your organization for:
- Optimized Operations
- Avoid Overcrowded Departments
- Avoid Care Delays or Poor Handoffs
- Patient Safety
- Patient Care & Satisfaction
- Increased Revenue & Productivity
- Reduced Wait Times
By improving patient flow, your healthcare facility will reduce the stress levels of patients and staff, creating a satisfying environment to work and receive care.
15 Ways to Improve The Patient Flow in Your Medical Facility
Here is a list of our best strategies to improve patient throughput.
1. Establish Communication and Integration Between All Hospital Departments
Effective communication between departments is essential to providing quality care and safety. You must clearly communicate patient flow goals, standards, routines, and processes with administrators, nurses, and physicians. Everyone should work together to maintain these throughput standards to avoid bottlenecks affecting several departments.
2. Share Capacity Data and Ensure Effective Transport Practices With Other Hospitals
By communicating with neighboring hospitals and healthcare facilities, you’ll be able to direct patients where they can get immediate care. Your facility can also coordinate and transfer patients to other health systems, medical groups, or health vendors that have sufficient capacity to provide the necessary care.
3. Leverage Advanced Technology and Tools to Improve Care
Adopting and leveraging technology and tools designed to improve efficiency, patient care, and turnaround times can boost your patient flow through enhanced operations. Your team should assess a wide variety of technologies to improve care, such as telemedicine, IoT, and other health management tools.
4. Develop a Specified Patient Flow Team to Promote Continual Improvements
Studies have found that creating a patient flow team that meets regularly composed of multidisciplinary departments can significantly improve patient flow. The members can offer varied perspectives and a depth of knowledge for troubleshooting problems, identifying underlying causes, and providing solutions that best address the patient’s needs and operational efficiencies.
5. Create a “Fast-Track” Process for Your ER
By creating a fast-track process that prioritizes and assesses urgent conditions for patients in an ER or an mid to large health system, the patient can avoid wait times and receive timely care depending on the severity of their needs. Doctors can also treat fast-track patients while waiting on the test results of other patients.
6. Develop a Standard and Timely Morning Discharge Routine for Patients
Establishing a standard discharge time for patients in the morning can help with patient management and improve patient care and satisfaction. An early morning discharge routine frees rooms to see new patients and relieves congestion. It also enables the patients to get home at a reasonable hour and fill prescriptions during the day, making care more accessible and easier to manage.
7. Optimize Your Facility Layout for Easy Navigation
For high-traffic areas of your healthcare facility, you’ll want to ensure the layout is optimized for staff and patients to complete tasks and easily find where they are going. To reduce cross-traffic, you should also consider keeping areas compartmentalized based on tasks or functions. Ways to improve your layout may include:
- Displaying easy-to-read signs to lead patients and staff through the facility.
- Creating a sequence flow so patients aren’t crossing or retracing where they’ve been to get to their next area.
- Providing stand-up workstations for staff to access records and take notes easily.
- Keeping patient rooms stocked with essential supplies.
Related: 3 Ways Patient Care is Like Tinder
8. Enhance Non-Clinical Services that Support Patient Care
Streamlining and creating efficient workflows for non-clinical services can really affect your patient flow. You’ll want to look for ways to improve housekeeping, administrative tasks, transportation, and other non-clinical services that can slow down your patient flow. This could include:
- Offering continual training and education to improve skills or processes.
- Adopting technology that could increase productivity and efficiency.
- Hiring qualified people committed to achieving patient flow goals and maintaining standards.
9. Provide Time Management Training to Facility Staff
Continually train your staff on time management techniques that can keep them from creating bottlenecks in the process or routine. This will increase productivity and efficiency.
Learn more about Clearstep’s Smart Care Routing technology that enables medium to large healthcare facilities to automate triage, patient communication, and administrative tasks that can slow patient flow.
10. Establish a Culture of Accountability
When staff is held accountable for patient flow shortcomings or bottlenecks, it establishes a high performance culture. Your patient flow team should identify where the staff or process can be improved to provide better care and a more productive work environment.
11. Explore the Benefits of Different Staffing Models
You may want to assess where alternative staffing models can improve operations and productivity to boost patient flow. This might mean incorporating a team-based approach for completing specific tasks that can expedite a patient’s care and time in the facility.
12. Leverage Data Analytics to Find Potential Areas of Improvement
As facilities adopt and integrate technology into their routines, tasks, and processes, you’ll be able to track data analytics and gather insights on improving patient flow by identifying bottlenecks or cumbersome tasks. The analytics can also identify where processes can be automated for better efficiency.
13. Keep Patients and Providers Up-to-Date With Offsite Notifications
Utilizing offsite notification systems and technology can keep patients and caregivers informed during their visit or stay. It keeps communication and expectations in check and informs patients when they can be seen for different treatments or services.
14. Develop a Smooth Schedule for Elective Surgeries
Implementing an elective surgical schedule that spaces the surgeries throughout the week relieves the strain and possibility of capacity crunches in the ER. Smoothing the schedule can prevent capacity peaks and valleys that can strain to provide quality care. This means analyzing data to determine the best schedule and dedicating operating rooms specifically for unscheduled demands.
15. Establish Clear Goals That Focus on Patient Acuity
- Patient bed availability
- How patients will flow through areas where they are treated or receive services like labs
- Safety standards for treatment and service areas
- The efficiency of non-clinical services that affect patient care or treatment
- Ability to access supportive services
Need to Improve Patient Flow in Your Healthcare Facility? Clearstep is Here to Help
Patient flow takes careful planning, input from multiple departments, continual communication, and staff commitment to achieving patient flow goals. By working together to improve your healthcare facility’s throughput, you’ll create a productive environment where patients can receive the best care.
Clearstep provides AI tools to increase patient satisfaction and retention by helping manage patient flow utilizing our Smart Care Routing.
Want a more efficient tool for guiding patients to the right care in the right department in real time? Schedule a demo of the Smart Care Routing solution.