July 27, 2009

Flow automation technology frees beds

Some U.S. hospitals move patients to floor hallways hoping nurses will find beds quickly, but patient flow technology may work better, experts say.

Anthony Sanzo, chief executive officer, and Lisa Romano, vice president, of TeleTracking Technologies, a maker of patient flow automation technology, say boarding, forces patients, in pain and under stress, to lie in public thruways and use portable toilets behind linen screens. Studies in Britain have shown the practice may increase the spread of infection, Romano says.

Overcrowding is no longer viewed as an emergency room problem, but as a hospital-wide problem caused by time lags in the movement of patients and is generally attributed to bad communications, Romano says.

Studying and redesigning the patient flow process and implementing automation technology can free up as much as 20 percent more bed space per day by squeezing wasted time out of the process, Romano adds.

A technique called parallel processing triggers bed cleaning and transport of a new patient simultaneously upon discharge of the previous in-patient, saving 30 to 40 minutes of downtime per bed, Sanzo and Romano says.

Another technique, gift wrapping, created at Seton Healthcare Network in Austin, Texas, established an express admissions team to do most of the admissions process in the emergency department, cutting admission times from 180 minutes to 30 minutes, Romano says.