By Lisa M. Wilson, MSN, RN
Patient transfers were challenging before COVID-19, but the pandemic has put more strain on hospitals and managing patient flow has become increasingly difficult given higher patient volume and staff shortages. Even before COVID-19, staff shortages prevented health systems and hospitals from dedicating the appropriate staff to the transfer process. COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem, resulting in multiple staff members spending precious time making dozens of calls within and outside of their hospitals and health systems to find the right placement for a patient needing to be transferred.
Patient Flow Improvement Strategies
The good news is that a timely and efficient patient transfer process can help improve the quality of care, increase patient satisfaction, and save resources and precious time when every minute counts. Whether your transfers originate from your emergency department or another department, the following strategies can help you overcome common transfer challenges, and improve patient flow in—and when appropriate, out—of your hospital.
Challenge: Processes and procedures are disorganized, inconsistent, duplicative or unclear.
Strategy: Seek opportunities for standardization. Busy providers seek hospitals and hospital systems that will respond to transfer requests quickly. To help expedite a physician’s acceptance of incoming patients, hospitals should seek opportunities to standardize transfer center processes among physicians, clinicians, and with administrative and other clinical staff. For example, intake is a critical step in the transfer process, and organizations should do a thorough evaluation of their intake process and identify areas where it can be streamlined and improved.
Understandably, providers will attempt to transfer patients within their own health systems, however that’s not always possible. In those instances where a hospital is admitting or transferring a patient from or to a hospital outside its health system, standardization is even more crucial. Given how overburdened and strained today’s hospitals are, there must be more coordination and collaboration among providers of different health systems to increase overall capacity to better serve patients and communities.
Challenge: Difficulty in identifying and quantifying transfer problems poses barriers for improvement.
Strategy: Use data to improve patient flow. Closely examining the transfer process from start to finish will help hospitals and health systems improve patient flow. For example, identifying the time it takes from intake to physician acceptance, and then from physician acceptance to bed placement, are critical data points necessary to support an organization’s goal to improve patient flow, and more importantly, patient outcomes. Then, a continuous evaluation of metrics can help organizations realize ongoing results, which can include better patient access and care, and financial savings.
Challenge: A shortage of staff—and time—to fix transfer problems.
Strategy: Dedicate resources to the patient transfer process. Hospitals and health systems need support when dealing with the complexities of the patient transfer process, but most don’t have the in-house resources, operational capacity, or expertise to implement improved transfer processes. Partnering with an organization like Conduit Health Partners can help organizations achieve optimal, patient-centered care through our customized 24/7 patient transfer center services.
Make Improving Patient Flow in Hospitals Easier: Partner with Conduit.
Conduit was designed by health care operators for health care operators, and our team knows the right questions to ask and the right processes to implement to improve patient flow while alleviating administrative burdens from hospital staff members so they can focus on direct patient care. Although dedicating resources to the transfer process may require an initial investment, hospitals can realize immediate benefits to their patient flow—and patient and provider satisfaction—by partnering with Conduit Health Partners.
Why Choose Conduit’s Strategies for Improving Patient Flow?
As health care leaders, we understand the ever-changing health care landscape and offer customized, cost-effective, and time-saving solutions to help your organization improve care for patients.
- Exceptional Engagement: We get to know your facilities, key resources, and those who are accepting patients based on service line, patient diagnosis, and level of care require where the patient will be placed. Patients get timely access to high-quality care when every minute counts.
- Nurse First Model: Conduit serves as the single access point for managing patient transfers with a centralized transfer communications system staffed 24/7 by registered nurses.
- Data-Driven: Health care executives need data to inform strong strategic decisions for their organizations. Conduit’s daily, monthly, and as-needed analytics provides transparency to the transfer process and arms executives with the critical information they need to make physician recruiting, service line development, and operational improvement decisions. The who, what, how, when and why of transfers becomes clear, helping leaders drive organizational success. Using analytic strategies that focus on timely, efficient care, our team will expertly manage your patient transfers, direct admissions, or consultations 24/7 so that your team can focus on its most critical role: providing high-quality patient care.
- Operational Excellence: With a keen understanding of the operational and logistical needs of emergency and inpatient departments, Conduit gives you peace of mind that your transfer processes are running smoothly.
Connect with the Conduit team to learn if our team can help your organization.
About the Author: Lisa M. Wilson, MSN, RN
Lisa is the Director of Operations, Access Center for Conduit Health Partners. She joined Conduit Health Partners in 2018 to oversee operations and the expansion of the Access Center service. With a focus on expediting patient access and client relations, Lisa is responsible for developing operational strategies that improve efficiencies in the transfer process.
She plays an instrumental role in the engagement of nurses and other clinicians for professional growth and development through the fostered development of several committees and task forces.