Healthcare organizations’ success depends heavily on effectively allocating resources to meet patient demand. As staffing resources become more limited, the stakes are even higher, which underscores the need for data-driven solutions. As hospitals reassess their labor strategies, Matthew Ledges, MD, vice president of clinical analytics for TeamHealth, shares how data and analytics can help organizations identify and implement more efficient staffing models and patient flow plans.
How can hospital teams use data and analytics to drive efficiencies?
Matt Ledges: Data should anchor any performance improvement event. The right data presented in the right way can help leaders make objective assessments of their problems, whether they’re resource-driven, such as staffing, or process-driven, or both. For example, if the waiting room is filling up, hospitals can use software to model their bed demand and compare that with their capacity. But this is only the first step. If there is a mismatch, astute leaders want to know what the root cause is. Is it really insufficient bed capacity or is it actually a length of stay issue? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen leaders have that ‘Aha’ moment of, ‘Wow, if I just reduce my length of stay by 20 minutes, for example, my bed capacity would align with demand and my waiting room wouldn’t fill up.’ The right data in the right hands can help focus attention on the right issues and help avoid band-aid solutions.
How do traditional solutions fall short when it comes to supporting emergency medicine staffing and operations?
ML: Everyone has dashboards, but they tend to only look back in time: how was our performance last week, last month or last quarter? Cognition, TeamHealth’s proprietary clinical analytics platform, picks up where traditional dashboards leave off. By combining facility-specific historical data with predictive analytics, Cognition helps leaders future-proof their departments. At its core, Cognition is a modeling environment where leaders can stress test their departments by creating different nurse and clinician staffing models as well as patient flow plans to find the best solutions.
What kinds of different challenges do you see among emergency departments?
ML: While no two departments are the same, there’s a relatively small number of problems that most departments face at any given time: staffing shortfalls, inpatient holds, fluctuating patient volume and acuity and poor throughout metrics, workforce morale and/or patient experience. Cognition is unique in that it not only accounts for facility-specific characteristics such as patient volume, acuity and arrival pattern, but it also accounts for a department’s unique resource constraints. In this way, Cognition helps leaders identify actionable solutions that are specific to their department.
How can greater efficiency impact workforce morale, patient safety and outcomes?
ML: Sustained departmental efficiency benefits patients and staff alike. The key word is ‘sustained.’ It’s one thing to have efficient operations during slower periods, but to have an enduring impact on workforce morale, patient safety and outcomes, leaders must create standard work. We tend to accept that patients who arrive at 7 a.m., when the department is relatively quiet, are moved through the system efficiently and have a pretty good experience. The problem is when we accept the inverse: patients who arrive at 7 p.m. on a Monday will have excessive wait times, which may contribute to a poor experience. Standard work describes a best practice that results in patients and staff having a similar experience regardless of time of day. From a resource allocation standpoint, this means aligning nurse, clinician and ancillary staffing to meet patient demand by hour of day and day of week. In this way, Mondays are no different than other day because the increased volume is matched by increased resources. Cognition’s highly visual platform helps leaders create staffing models that promote standard work, which leads to a better experience for everyone.
How can software support emergency medicine teams without adding to administrative burden?
ML: We designed Cognition with department leaders in mind. We recognized early on that no matter how robust the analytics, the tool would have limited value if it didn’t handle all the major domains of clinical operations and have an intuitive user interface. With Cognition, leaders can tackle all aspects of patient flow, productivity management and staffing in one location. This provides a more complete view of a department and helps leaders avoid the unintended consequences of tackling problems in isolation. For example, users can pull a staffing scenario into the throughput module and say, ‘Wait a minute – this may cause some serious patient flow problems.’ Conversely, if you’re hyper-focused on throughput and throwing staff hours at the problem, you can quickly assess the impact on productivity goals. By combining these domains into one platform, leaders can have a full view of their department.
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To learn more, visit www.teamhealth.com/cognition/