Intermountain Healthcare is a Utah-based, not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals (includes “virtual” hospital), a medical group with more than 2,400 physicians and advanced practice clinicians at 160 clinics, a health plan division, and other health services. Intermountain Healthcare is widely recognized as a leader in clinical quality improvement and efficient healthcare delivery fulfilling its mission of helping people live the healthiest lives possible.
Health systems throughout the United States face a persistent challenge—a surplus of patients straining capacity at tertiary care facilities, while community hospitals are underutilized. To ensure that no one hospital is overwhelmed, real-time visibility with actionable and meaningful data allows for load balancing across a system. Striking such balance also keeps patients closer to home and in community hospitals when a higher level of care is not medically needed. Load balancing has enormous benefits across the board. For example, from a financial and operational standpoint, smoothing and aligning patient needs and care capacity helps a health system optimize holistically. And most importantly, from the patient perspective, it decreases wait times and keeps patients closer to family and their support network.
However, successful load balancing is a complex challenge. Intermountain Healthcare, long known as one of the most innovative health systems in the United States, developed a multi-faceted, patient-centric approach to this challenge. The first step, however, was to create system-wide situational awareness to understand patterns of patient demand and capacity system-wide.
A key issue related to the lack of awareness was Intermountain outsourcing its transfer center in 2015. The outsourced center resulted in treatment delays, inappropriate placement of patients, and extreme frustration on the part of the referring provider. Shortly thereafter, the transfer center operations were brought back in-house which provided more control over the patient intake process.
And then in March of 2019, Intermountain took another step forward by centralizing operations—patient transfers, patient placement, transportation, virtual care, and other key functions in a single center—creating system-wide situational awareness and cohesive workflows.