When a patient begins their care journey at a health system, they go through a range of touchpoints—the emergency department, radiology, the operating room, and the ICU are just a few examples. The one thing that ties these points together is transport—and that's why transport is such a critical part of effective patient flow. Transporters make sure that patients get to the different places inside the facility, and also prepare them for their next level of care.
Some health systems have specific transporters for specific departments, while others take a centralized approach. A benefit of the centralized approach is consistency—there are consistent processes and consistent safety measures, regardless of a patient's acuity or the reason for their stay. It also provides the flexibility to respond to fluctuations in patient census in different areas.
Centralized transport also makes it possible for frontline clinicians to spend more time with patients and utilize their skills at the bedside. It may seem like a small thing, but if a nurse needs to move a patient, it could take 20-25 minutes—and that's 20-25 minutes they're not delivering care. There's also a cost consideration—having a patient transporter move patients is more economical than having a nurse or even a patient care technologist move a patient.
The transport process typically kicks off with a request from the caregiver, which is then dispatched to an available transporter. When the transporter responds, they'll use a mobile device to indicate they're on the way, which is important from a number of standpoints. That response is used to notify the caregivers in the area where the patient is waiting that they're on the way and it's also used to measure performance since we know where the transporter is starting from. Once that transporter arrives where the patient is located, they'll use their mobile device again to mark themselves “in progress.” What that does, like the first touchpoint, is notify the receiving area that the patient is on the way, also gives the transporter an opportunity to mark any delays if necessary. Once the patient arrives at their destination and the transporter marks the task as complete. The transporter is then ready to receive another task, if there's one, and off they go again. It's that repeatability and consistency from the transporters that results in high quality care.
Ongoing quality improvements tie to that ability to measure. The touch points allow us to understand how long it typically takes to move a patient from one department to another. And that can be analyzed further to understand where the barriers are—measuring things like how long on average it takes to go to and from different destinations and departments in the hospital, as well as capturing delays, and what can cause extra wait times. If you start to understand what those things are, then you can begin to remove those delays.
Transporters also serve a comfort role for patients. A transporter is often one of the last people that will take a patient to their car before they go home, before a surgery, or they're leaving to go to another facility. It's a very personable type of work, interacting with many types of patients.
Transporters can also play a role in making sure patients have the equipment they need. When you start to have consistency and efficiency, you're able to do more with the transport staff that you have. So that becomes an opportunity to add other tasks for transporters to improve overall hospital efficiency. It can be clinical pieces of equipment like infusion pumps—but it could be transport related equipment like wheelchairs and stretchers, making sure they stay clean and in areas for when the next wave activity begins.
Thank you to transporters everywhere and if you’d like to learn more, tune into the latest episode of Patient Flow Podcast.