Case study: Health system slashes hospital bed wait times by tapping Lean, IT

Hospital officials focused on operational efficiency
By Erin McCann
11:06 AM
Share
Clock

By tapping patient flow tools in its IT systems and  implementing a Lean management approach, one healthcare system slashed its wait times for hospital beds, even as admissions increased nearly 30 percent, according to a new case study.

Health First, a health plan and four-hospital health system in Florida, set out three years ago to address some serious challenges. They were facing subpar quality scores; they had financial difficulty in addition to low patient satisfaction ratings. They decided to focus their efforts on transforming operational efficiencies at the health system by first embracing lean management methodology in combination with better utilizing IT systems and data.

An expert who specialized in Lean management was brought on and identified patient flow processes as one of the biggest areas for improvement. Each of the four hospitals operated in silos, with clinicians manually locating and assigning beds. Shift changes led to bottlenecks, according to the case study conducted by the Rand Corporation.

Identifying beds of recently discharged patients was also a manual and time-consuming process. All of this led to the health system losing transfers to other outside healthcare organizations, impacting Health First's bottom line, officials noted.

So Health First got its act together. By rolling out an operations platform from TeleTracking Technologies that was integrated with the electronic health record, the staff was better able to track beds and had access to real-time metrics.

This wasn't the only component, however. Health First also established the Central Patient Logistics Center, a bed management center headed by nonclinical staff with a "bird's eye view". The hospital also implemented centralized registration, centralized utilization review, transfer access nurses and an electronic intensive care unit.

Three years later, the results are impressive. The health system witnessed a 300 percent increase in adult transfers and a decrease in time it took patients to move from the ER to a hospital bed by more than one-third.

"To react to cost pressure while maintaining safety standards, this case study suggests that a focus on patient flow using Lean process improvement methods supported by an IT infrastructure could be a recipe for success," researchers wrote in the report. "We conclude that the adoption of centralized, data-driven
management of regional referrals, inpatient admissions and bed turnover at Health First streamlined throughput and freed up substantial latent capacity in its network of four hospitals."

To read more about Health First's case study, access the Rand report here.