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The Importance of Accurately Managing Patient Flow

SyberScribe AUTHOR: SyberScribe, June 21st, 2019

Hospitals all over the world face the same critical problem; more people seeking treatment than there are facilities to provide care for them. This puts pressure on administrators and health care professionals to try and move patients from inpatient to outpatient status as rapidly as possible.

Patient flow can be defined as the movement of patients through a healthcare facility from the point of admission to the point of discharge. Good patient flow benefits everyone from patient safety and health outcomes to health provider retention rates, productivity and profitability.  

Costs of poor patient flow

Problems can result from poor patient flow and there are numerous documented incidents of patients being moved through the system too rapidly or too slowly. When this happens, the outcomes can be serious:

  • The patient may suffer harm or a worsening of their condition or spread infection and disease to others.
  • Health care professionals may face disciplinary action and suffer stress due to the feeling of having failed their patients.
  • Administrators could lose their positions or in the very worst cases, face charges of criminal negligence and be fined or imprisoned.
  • Health care facilities could have their reputation damaged, directly affecting profitability and their ability to continue operating.

Managers of healthcare practices of all kinds are increasingly becoming aware that accurate patient flow is the key to improving efficiency, increasing revenue for the practice and providing a positive and safe experience for the patient.

The principles of effective patient flow management

To be effective, patient flow needs to be systematic; not like a production line, but where everyone involved from admission to after-care knows who every patient is, their status and their whereabouts during their movement through the stages of patient flow. And as the technology available improves, patient flow systems should also be improving in both effectiveness and accuracy.

In a hospital environment, attention needs to be paid to the systems implemented to improve how patients move from check-in to discharge, so that doctors and nurses can operate efficiently and maximise their time spent with patients.

Unfortunately, no matter how automated systems become, there is always some susceptibility to human error and things can easily be overlooked. It can be time-consuming to record detailed patient data with so much pressure to move people through quickly. This can lead to steps being skipped (“I’ll fill it in later”) and sometimes patients being overlooked, not receiving the correct treatment or being incorrectly handed off.

Technology can help

At least part of this problem can be resolved thanks to existing technology. Online transcription services utilising the best technology such as Syberscribe are able to significantly reduce the amount of manual data entry performed by staff. This frees them up to be more efficient in all their tasks, including reducing bottlenecks in waiting areas, ensuring patients are attended to and that patients don’t get overlooked, lost or misdirected.

Other technological improvements that could be implemented include;

  • Voice capture – encouraging doctors and medical specialists to use voice recording devices rather than handwritten notes to speed up diagnoses and reduce the number of errors.
  • Patient flow software – this can automate low priority processes and gather data for analysis towards future improvements.
  • Efficient communications – prioritising communications between specialists, patients and health care providers by reducing face-to-face time where possible in favour of phone calls, video links or emails.
  • Digital services – providing instant online access to a patient’s medical information, such as the government’s My Health Record initiative.

The benefits of these efficiencies are obvious, but technophobia may still be acting as a disincentive for change amongst some administrators who prefer more traditional methods of administration.

Poor patient flow management is too costly not to address

There are all kinds of factors that contribute to patient flow problems; not all of which can be attributed to individual health care facilities. It’s a complex problem affected by politics, technology, management decisions and sometimes even the patients themselves.

But as outlined above, if these problems are not addressed the financial cost could be high. More importantly, there are other costs to consider that go well beyond monetary value. An optimally efficient healthcare industry is a safer one and that has to be better for all.

While there’s no single “magic bullet” that will address all the potential problems in managing patient flow, at the very least facilities should look at where their systems could be improved. Nothing less than an honest internal audit of patient flow management will reveal where improvement is necessary.

If after examining your processes, you realise you need to optimise the current tasks your employees undertake such as medical transcription, SyberScribe provides fast and accurate turnaround from the best medical transcriptionists available. So contact Syberscribe today or call us on 1300 764 482 for more information.