Entry 1: The need for a common throughput language

March 20, 2015

I have been a nurse and Director with the Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, VA, for over 20 years. We have six campuses in our system sharing a fleet of nearly 50 ambulances and three helicopters. Our patient occupancy runs anywhere, on average, from 95 percent to 98 percent. It’s safe to say that during my career, I witnessed the evolution of everything in terms of our record keeping and communications – writing things down on paper, pre-electronic medical records and the latest technology systems in use today. It’s also safe to say that throughput issues are at the top of our list of challenges as we work to keep our organization functioning at the highest level of efficiency possible.

In healthcare today, most hospitals can be placed into one of two categories. They are either struggling because their patient volumes are falling, or they are like our organization where we are almost at 100 percent occupancy. Our situation requires us to look for solutions that provide rich resources of data to help us with our decision making. We need to be able to look across our entire system to anticipate what’s heading our way in terms of anticipated patient volumes, but also retrospectively so that we can course correct. That kind of data is critical.

With TeleTracking solutions, we are able to identify our patient demands both in the short and long terms. For example, just in the last two years alone, we have added nearly 40 new beds based upon the data we have been able to gather and analyze. We are aiming to add another 40 beds in the next year or so. You can’t make those sorts of additions blindly. You can’t just go to your administration and ask for 40 new beds, because that is a huge investment and everyone’s budget is so tight these days. We had to prove our efficiencies and then prove that we just don’t have enough beds to meet the population needs. That is the kind of real data we are able to pull from TeleTracking. It’s how we manage all the documentation of our transfers and doc-to-doc conversations.
The truly interesting result of utilizing TeleTracking as part of our system is that we have discovered that the core of most of our problems involves what I like to call competing priorities. There are competing priorities, both conscious and unconscious, in most businesses, and healthcare is no different. When people don’t have a centralized place to look at the needs of the facility and everyone has competing priorities, a tunnel-vision mindset takes hold. “This is what my 24 patients in my unit need.” “This is what the Operating Room needs.” “This is what the ER needs.” All of these needs are competing with each other. Without a common place using a  common language, you naturally look out for your own interest, and that results in conflict and wasted resources. It does matter how the cardiac patients are moving in and out because that impacts the ER. ER movement, in turn, impacts the surgery patients moving in and out. They all have to be considered at the same time because they share resources at the same time. There has to be some give and take there. With TeleTracking, we can see the whole picture clearly and use a common language that enables everyone to drop their blinders and act for the good of our system, notjust their unit.

*HMT editor’s note: After attending the 12th Annual TeleTracking Client Conference and witnessing several compelling success stories, the editorial staff at Health Management Technology decided to present a variety of end-user testimonials depicting the efficiencies and benefits of TeleTracking real-time capacity management solutions in use at healthcare organizations around the world. This introduction demonstrates, from a throughput perspective, the value of utilizing a common language to record and communicate information at a high-volume facility.

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