By Lettie Primeaux, Clinical Executive, TeleTracking Technologies
Many hospitals and health systems are still not effectively using the technology systems they have to better manage and streamline their operational processes impacting patient flow. On top of that, many of them who are utilizing technology only view its benefits as an efficiency and cost-saving tool for their facilities and not as one that could actually enhance the patient experience and satisfaction. That was a key takeaway audience participants conveyed from our session, Automating Workflows to Streamline Patient Flow in Inpatient and Ambulatory Care Settings, at the 2023 BRI Patient Flow Management Summit in Las Vegas.
At our session, one of our major affiliated health system clients and large perioperative clinic clients shared their insights on their struggles with patient flow before they began to explore automation solutions that could significantly help them get it under control. Both discussed the significant turnarounds they achieved not only in processes that impacted such areas as bed turnover, length of stay (LOS) and discharge as well as the millions saved with TeleTracking Technologies like Real Time Locating System (RTLS) and Clinical Workflow Suite (CWS), but also how the automation was positively affecting the overall patient experience at their institutions. These included:
They also talked about another aspect of how their TeleTracking automation systems were indirectly helping improve patient satisfaction.
During the session there was universal agreement expressed that while “every hospital is a beautiful unicorn,” every hospital or healthcare facility needed to understand and implement ongoing process changes and adjustments necessary to get the most out of their operational patient flow automation technology to get patient satisfaction levels even higher. This can be a challenge sometimes for healthcare facilities but TeleTracking’s clinical operations specialist teams partner with them to navigate through the changes while making the technology integration seamless.
All the session participants and attendees also agreed that there should never be a cookie-cutter approach to either process or technology changes, as every healthcare institution has a unique culture and workflow procedures with components that do work effectively, so any implementation of automation technology must be customized to that facility. For instance, TeleTracking’s RTLS-enabled AutoDischarge technology has wristbands or tags that need to be put on the patient that are electronically scanned to alert nursing and care staff when the patient is ready for discharge. For some hospitals and facilities, depending on their workflow processes, it may better to put these on patients at registration or intake when all their information is gathered, while for other institutions putting them on when a patient already is in a room with an assigned bed is more optimal. Flexibility in an automation system is critical. However, no automation technology-- including TeleTracking’s RTLS -- completely works on autopilot, but RTLS does come very close. Nurses need to put the bands on patients and patients need to keep the band on. That’s when automation and nursing staff become the patient’s best friend, and everything works to the benefit of your hospital or facility.
Both institutions are making great strides utilizing automation in accelerating the pace of getting their patients efficiently cared for and discharged from their facilities while also helping them set and meet new patient flow throughput benchmarks and cross-unit operational performance targets. Our affiliated health system client, for instance, has been able to cut hundreds of minutes and hours of transport time in half (from 300 to 150 minutes) at least one of its hospitals with TeleTracking RTLS. The large perioperative clinic facility can monitor in real-time when nurses, doctors, techs, and other clinicians and staff have visited with patients via RTLS’ tracking bands they wear, resulting in a 10% decrease in per patient encounter time and subsequently speeds up flow and discharge of hundreds of patients coming through their facility. Patients with tracking tags help the facility’s nurses and staff know at all times where they are in their treatment journey so their discharge can be coordinated smoothly and efficiently with no delays. In fact, the facility’s patient net promoter scores (NPS) have increased with TeleTracking RTLS and many patients on regular visits there for care are expressing high satisfaction with wearing the bands. While the institutions acknowledged that loosening patient flow bottlenecks is a process of continuous improvement, all have made tangible progress with operational software technology reducing the length of stay, a metric that tops the satisfaction list of most patients.
Hospitals and health systems are just beginning to come out of the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic had on their operations, workflows, and patient care. Weaknesses in those processes and components of them that had to be fundamentally repaired were revealed. Critical nursing and staff shortages also continue to climb in its aftermath. There has never been a more consequential time than now for hospitals and health systems to make process changes needed for their survival and, equally important, to automate and leverage technology to the fullest to reap the full benefits of the changes they put in place.
Lettie Primeaux joined TeleTracking in 2017 and brings 28+ years of health care experience. Her first years were spent in direct patient care and management at a large health system in Atlanta. In 2005 she transitioned to healthcare IT. Prior to TeleTracking, Lettie worked at Hill-Rom IT Solutions for six years, first as a Regional Account Manager and then as a Clinical Consultant focusing on client outcomes. She also worked for Allscripts for over five years as a Sr. Management Consult focused on client implementations and outcomes. She joined TeleTracking in the role of Sr. Workflow Consultant and transitioned to Clinical Executive in 2021. As a Clinical Executive for TeleTracking her focus is developing and building long term client relationships with large strategic accounts and helping clients develop a shared vision of success and staying focused on their multi-year outcomes.
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