Using big data to smooth patient flow


For Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina, big data analytics has helped smooth traffic flow at its hematology-oncology clinic, according to an article at HealthITAnalytics.

The hospital usually had a crush of patients between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., but few people in its 43 treatment chairs during other hours.

“During those high-capacity hours, it’s almost like working in a fast food place when someone drops off a busload of customers,” Karen Craver, clinical practice administrator, said in the article. It's a situation that left patients waiting and staff members stressed, he said.

In addition, fixing the problem wasn’t a simple matter of having the schedulers do a better job. Different drugs take varying amounts of time to administer, and even when using a cheat sheet, it was hard for schedulers to even out the flow.

Using big data technology, however, the organization was able to get a view of the data to better understand opportunities for improvement, according to the article. A physician focused on breast cancer, for instance, brought in a different type of patients than a doctor treating leukemia.

Wake Forest was better able to tailor the schedule to accommodate myriad treatment protocols, while at the same time simplify the schedulers’ cheat sheet from 16 visit types to just six.

The organization reports it has increased chair utilization by 10 percent, patients spend less time waiting, staff is less harried and pharmacy can fill orders in a timelier manner.

SwedishAmerican Hospital in Illinois reported using software to improve bed management, likening it to “air traffic control for patients.”

To learn more:
- read the article