Perfecting Patient Flow & Optimising Hospital Operations

In this episode of the Talking HealthTech podcast, Nick White and Kaye Hocking from Alcidion provided valuable insights into the challenges and solutions for improving patient care and streamlining healthcare journeys. 

Understanding Patient Flow and Optimising Patient Experience

Patient flow plays a crucial role in managing care delivery for individual patients and across the healthcare enterprise, aiming to achieve optimal patient stay and support the clinical team and executives with real-time data. As Kaye Hocking explained: 

“Managing patient flow is about ensuring that patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time, and that the resources are allocated efficiently to support this.” 

This emphasises the importance of optimising the patient journey and improving their experience through effective patient flow management.

Challenges in Patient Allocation and Coordination

The allocation of patients to appropriate beds within hospitals is essential for their experience and quality of care. However, logistical and care challenges can arise when patients are not allocated to their home ward or specialty. Technology plays a pivotal role in providing a digital solution for managing patient information and critical results, improving communication and coordination among the care team. Nick White highlighted the significance, stating:

We need to prioritise clinician and patient needs before we integrate any technology into the clinical workflow.”

Addressing Demand and Capacity Mismatches through Technology

Hospitals are reliant on beds for patient care, and the demand for beds often fluctuates. Matching demand and capacity is crucial to ensure efficient patient flow. The patient flow solution aims to address challenges in moving patients through the system and optimising demand and capacity. According to Kaye Hocking, “A patient flow solution looks at the broader logistical and impact perspective, adding value to the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) by focusing on the optimal patient journey.” This integrated approach emphasises the need for technology to support and enhance the clinical workflow while addressing broader logistical challenges.

The Value of Data Integration

Data integration and interoperability are paramount in managing care delivery effectively. Seamless compatibility with EMR systems and various healthcare applications is essential for streamlining patient care processes. Nick White highlighted the value of interoperable data, stating:

“Interoperable data can reduce unnecessary time spent by clinicians and benefit patients by enabling seamless information flow.”

The emphasis on data integration and interoperability underscores the need for a holistic approach to patient care and the critical role of technology in achieving this goal.

Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing in Healthcare

The discussion also touched upon the exciting potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in predicting demand and capacity mismatches in patient flow. Kaye Hocking highlighted this, stating, “Artificial intelligence can play a significant role in analysing patient data and guiding capacity planning, leading to more efficient patient care processes.” Additionally, the use of natural language processing (NLP) in noting reduced administrative burden on clinicians and released hours of time per shift, illustrates how technology can streamline operational processes and improve patient care.

Transformational Impact of Technology on Patient Flow

The cumulative benefits of small time savings and operational improvements can lead to transformational change in patient flow. As Nick White emphasised: 

“Focusing on patient discharge planning and targeting a discharge date to achieve optimal length of stay can release capacity and allow more patients to be treated.” 

This illustrates how optimising length of stay for patients can greatly impact healthcare capacity and patient outcomes.

Key Learnings and Future Directions for Healthcare Providers

Addressing operational challenges in patient flow requires a combination of operational practices and the right technology solutions. Kaye Hocking highlighted this, stating, “Traditional manual bed management processes involved discrepancies in bed count, but the implementation of digital solutions reduced phone calls to the bed management office by more than 60%.” This underlines the transformative impact of technology in addressing operational challenges and streamlining healthcare processes.

Empowering Healthcare Transformation through Technology and Data

The insights shared by Nick White and Kaye Hocking underscore the transformative potential of technology and data in improving patient care and streamlining healthcare journeys. By prioritising patient and clinician needs, addressing demand and capacity mismatches, and leveraging dataintegration and interoperability, healthcare providers can enhance patient flow, optimise length of stay, and improve overall patient outcomes. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, the integration of advanced technologies and data solutions will play a pivotal role in empowering healthcare transformation and delivering better patient care.