More hospitals looking to optimize patient flow

Optimizing patient flow throughout various healthcare settings continues to be a critical objective for hospitals, with nearly a third of industry officials planning to invest in patient flow solutions.

According to CapSite's "2012 U.S. Patient Flow Study" released Tuesday, some 31 percent of U.S. hospitals indicated their intentions to purchase patient flow solutions to address the current patient crowding bottleneck effect seen in hospital departments nationwide.

The study represents unique voice of customer insight from more than 420 hospitals on market adoption, market share, market opportunity and vendor mind share across the U.S. hospital market.

[See also: 'Medical centers of future' include RTLS.]

The 2012 Patient Flow study is the most recent in a series of CapSite strategic industry reports focused on assessing the impact of the HITECH Act of 2009.

“Efficiency improvements are by far the most significant driver for provider organization investments in patient flow solutions," says CapSite Research Director, Brendan FitzGerald. "More specifically, healthcare providers are focused on improving bed turnaround times and reducing patient wait times.”

Patient crowding, increased length of stay and emergency room wait times haven't shown signs of waning anytime soon. In fact, the numbers continue to increase.

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services highlights that from 1999 through 2009, patient visits to the emergency department (ED) rose 32 percent from 102.8 million visits in 1999 to 136.1 million visits in 2009.

Moreover, the data also finds that ED wait times have increased significantly (27 percent), from 46.5 minutes in 2003 to 58.1 minutes in 2009.

Several recent studies have also emphasized the financial impact of patient flow problems. One 2011 study conducted by SUNY Brooklyn, Kings Country Hospital and the University of Southern California Medical Center, found that hospitals saw costs of between $3.9 million and $9.8 million relating to ED crowding.

In 2008, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) funded a project aimed at improving patient flow and reducing ED crowding across six hospitals. Patient flow solutions and hospital strategies were responsible for decreasing ED length of stay times by up to 33 percent.

Results suggested that a robust IT system, executive support, an aligned reporting structure and careful staff selection all facilitated patient flow improvements across four of the six hospitals.

Common barriers identified by AHRQ included staff resistance, lack of staffing resources, lack of data and culture change.

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