Improved patient flow at Beaufort Memorial Hospital cuts costs, length-of-stay

Using patient-flow software resulted in dramatically reduced length-of-stay and significant cost savings for Beaufort (S.C.) Memorial Hospital in a six-week trial. Hospital staff discussed the results this week at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Orlando, Fla.

The 197-bed not-for-profit community hospital has 10,000 annual inpatient discharges and 50,000 annual emergency department visits.

In the trial, the hospital took into account that strapping new technology onto old processes wouldn't be enough, and learned how to help staff smoothly incorporate new processes into existing workflows.

Among the results:

  • Increased discharge orders before noon from 10 percent to 40 percent
  • Decreased bed turnover time from 120 minutes to 60 minutes
  • Reduced length of stay, on average, by a half of a day
  • Reduced costs by an estimated $480,472
  • Potential increase in revenue of $1,233,878 

Ed Ricks, chief information officer of Beaufort, told FierceHealthIT that software must be intuitive and that staff shouldn't have to spend a lot of time entering information.

"The painful part is more people-oriented," Ricks said, adding that he heard everything from "I'm going to quit my job" to "I'm just not going to do this," from his staff. "Once they embraced it as an organization, it got better. Some are still uncomfortable--six weeks is a short time--but people started to see the results."

The trial got the hospital thinking about patient flow differently, he said. Information about the patient, where they are in the hospital, their insurance coverage and their length of stay is available in real-time, all the time, so a nurse can tell a patient he or she will be going home by Thursday on a Tuesday, for example. It improves logistics for both staff and patients.

The new workflow process made also allowed Ricks to identify some key performance indicators the hospital can now use for other areas and set goals around. The data generated from the software will also allow for some big data insights to improve the hospital's efficiency.

As FiercePracticeManagement recently reported, managing the patient-visit cycle gives practices the most potential for profitability and efficiency over any other initiative.

In addition, smoother patient flow enhances care and improves safety, according to research from the Commonwealth Fund.

To learn more:
- see the session slides (.pdf)

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