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How command centres are driving safe, efficient patient flow through hospital and beyond

Every day, our integrated care systems manage the delicate balance of providing the care patients need, whilst creating capacity to support new patients as they come into the system. This task is more complex than it may seem, with a wide range of constraints including management of staffing levels, bed availability, specialist capabilities, equipment availability, fluctuating demand and variability in the services required, just to name a few.

The role of the Bed Manager is a great example that highlights this challenge. Each day, Bed Managers in most hospitals update their whiteboard or spreadsheet with detail on patient status and expected movements. However, the status of a patient is often changing, and using a static tool such as a spreadsheet or whiteboard to manage a fluid and critical business process is a significant constraint on effective patient flow, communication across teams, and operational performance.

Imagine the challenge: by the time the write up is complete on a hospital whiteboard for example, some of the detail will have changed, and the Bed Manager needs to gather the data from clinician or patient records to make changes and updates. The information is not available outside the ward, so the planning for new admissions is constrained, with phone calls needed to confirm if or when a bed is available. Consistent breakdowns in this information flow drives inefficiency into our hospitals, and at the extreme, results in bed block, where new patients are not able to be admitted.

Many hospitals and wider health care systems are responding to this challenge by implementing a digital patient flow solution and centralising the management of critical information regarding capacity and flow into a Command Centre.

Full visibility across the whole patient pathway 

Command Centres are the centralised hub that serves as the nerve centre for all integrated care operations. They contribute to improved patient care, operational efficiency and overall hospital performance. Integrated care systems have increasingly adopted Command Centres to help manage complex operations, make data-driven decisions and optimise patient flow. In this article, we explore the key attributes of a Command Centre and how they can benefit hospitals and patients.

Adopting a technology-enabled approach to the Command Centre will reduce the amount of time needed to maintain manual records, seek updates via telephone from services and communicate status that is already out of date.  All relevant staff will have immediate visibility of the real-time status allowing them to make informed decisions and initiate appropriate actions.

Real-time data analytics

One of the critical attributes of a Command Centre is its ability to collect, analyse and present real-time data. Health care organisations generate a vast amount of data daily and a Command Centre capability enables them to collate and visualise that data in a way that facilitates better decision-making. Data analytics provides valuable insights into patient flow, bed utilisation, staff scheduling and other vital hospital operations. It also allows hospital staff to identify trends and patterns in patient behaviour, which can be used to improve patient care and satisfaction as well as providing insights into optimising utilisation and logistics.

Collaboration

Command Centres are designed to be collaborative, bringing together people from different departments and specialties. By working together, the team can collaborate and communicate in real-time, reducing silos and improving overall performance. The Command Centre can also be used to facilitate communication between staff and patients or their families, providing them with updates on patient status, wait times and other important information.

Centralised decision making

One of the primary goals of a Command Centre is to centralise decision-making, ensuring that all relevant stakeholders are on the same page. By having a centralised hub for decision-making, staff can quickly respond to changes in patient care, staffing, or equipment needs. Centralisation also means that decision-making is based on data-driven insights, ensuring that organisations make the best possible decisions for their patients. Alcidion’s Command Centre Process Framework helps to outline core activities of the Command Centre to support staff in their work.

Flexibility

A Command Centre should be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions and emergencies. It should be equipped with contingency plans and protocols to handle different scenarios such as natural disasters, pandemics, or other crises that can impact system-wide operations. Flexibility also means that the Command Centre must be scalable and able to accommodate changes in operations, such as fluctuations in patient volume, staffing and equipment.

Integration with technology

A Command Centre must be integrated with other technologies to be effective. This means that it should be equipped with state-of-the-art tools such as real-time location tracking systems, electronic health records, data visualisation and predictive analytics software. By leveraging technology, hospitals can optimise their operations, reduce wait times and improve patient outcomes. Alcidion’s Command Centre visualisations are fully integrated with our Miya Precision Platform, providing real-time information and predictive capability.

Improved patient experience

The ultimate goal of a Command Centre is to improve patient care and experience, whilst maintaining capacity to support the community. By optimising hospital operations, reducing wait times and streamlining patient flow, hospitals can improve patient experience and outcomes. In addition, by providing patients and their families with real-time updates and information, the Command Centre can reduce anxiety and improve the overall patient experience.

A Command Centre is an essential component of modern hospital operations. Its key attributes, including real-time data analytics, collaboration, flexibility, centralised decision-making, integration with technology and improved patient experience, can help integrated care systems achieve their goals of providing excellent patient care, optimising operations and improving patient outcomes. By investing in a Command Centre, health and social care organisations can better manage their complex operations and deliver the best possible care to their patients.

Nick White is Director of Analytics & Insights at Alcidion.