Workflow Dashboards – The Holy Grail for Improving Patient Flow

At Infinite Leap, our team members have years of practical healthcare experience as hospital CIOs, nurses, and practice administrators. Our team makeup allows us to truly understand our healthcare clients’ challenges so we can help them leverage the power of real-time technologies. Today, I had the pleasure of talking to Page Thompson, our Director of Strategic Accounts. Page spent over a decade working for innovative healthcare technologies companies, such as Change Healthcare, provider of the first consumer-facing healthcare cost transparency solution, and as the Director of Client Operations for Premise Health where he managed strategic client relationships and on-site medical operations for multiple Fortune 500 clients. In this role, he was responsible for the successful execution and delivery of multiple lines of service including Patient-Centered Medical Home/ Primary Care, Dental, Vision, Occupational Health, Physical Therapy, Radiology, and Pharmacy. I asked Page to share with us his views on how Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) can make an impact on healthcare operations.

Can you tell us what is important to practice operators and how technology can be of assistance?
In my role overseeing medical operations, I was responsible for ensuring that the highest level of clinical care was delivered to patients in the most cost-effective way, while ensuring the highest level of patient satisfaction. All who have been in this role know that it is not an easy task as all these elements are interconnected and if you focus too much on a single aspect, such as cost-cutting measures, then the clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction will suffer. There needs to be a balance between all three parts: cost, quality, and satisfaction. I see technology as a critical enabler to keep that balance, starting with solutions like Electronic Health Records (EHRs). However, as the operator, I did not have the right tools to better manage the operational side of the healthcare delivery – tools that would provide me with in-the-moment insight into the patient flow.

How would in-the-moment patient flow insights change your operations?
When running medical operations, I did have access to real-time patient flow data. I had a skilled team of business analysts crunching the data each month so I could look at trends, but we were missing data that we could all act on in-the-moment – the front desk staff, the providers, and the support staff. You cannot wait a month or even a week to ensure high patient satisfaction – you need to react to an individual patient situation when it happens, such as when a patient has to wait longer than expected. Only then can you ensure your Press-Ganey scores, your net-promoter scores, or other patient satisfaction measures will remain high.

Our staff was focused on ensuring our patients are happy, striving for “white-glove” service, but as the operator, I wished I could provide them with better tools to help make their jobs easier and less stressful.

Take the front-desk staff, for example – from the moment a patient came to the clinic they had to pay attention to each patient so they could notify a patient if there was a longer wait time; however, in a busy clinic, your head would start spinning after an hour or two of that constant need to assess the current situation in the waiting room and you could easily lose track of who is walking in. In addition, without real-time visibility into room occupancy, they had to rely on their years of experience and ‘sense’ for the flow of the clinic that day to manage expectations with the patients.

How can technology help?
What is exciting about technology is that sensors can now be an extension of our senses. When your staff does not need to constantly scan the doors to see who is coming in, or where patients are in the facility, it lets them be more efficient at work. They can register patients faster, patients get roomed faster, and rooms get cleaned much more quickly after patients complete their visits. At the same time, it provides staff with a peace of mind that none of the patients will be lost in the process, because the patient’s location badge will notify staff automatically if they are waiting too long, or will inform them where they are in the care delivery process so they are ready for them.

It is a win-win for patients and staff?
Yes, RTLS technologies provide a tremendous value to patients as they can check in automatically and be notified about any unexpected delays. For staff the system provides unparalleled visibility into patient flow, all while removing the burden of keeping track of patients manually. For anyone in healthcare operations, RTLS-enabled workflow dashboards provide an immediate way to see the early warnings signs of potential bottlenecks in patient flow. With this information, appropriate adjustments and interventions can be enacted before a situation escalates – and this to me is the holy grail for improving patient flow.

What is the most important aspect of RTLS data?
Access to the information in real time is a key. Yes, EHR and practice management solutions can provide you with patient flow information, but it is just a glimpse of information, which is often skewed as the data is entered manually into the system.

With RTLS, you get timely and precise data, so you can leverage the information in-the-moment, but you can also look at trends and other analytics, such as wait times, unattended time, or room occupancy reports. When you then correlate this information with patient satisfaction data, you can gain insights into what factors influence patient satisfaction and to what level. You will be able to analyze what frustrates your patients – is it the amount of time they are spending in your waiting room, or the time they spend alone in the exam room?

Again, with RTLS data, you can drill down to this level of information and make sound operational decisions. Sometimes it could mean a frank conversation with a provider whose patient satisfaction scores are lower than patients served by another provider. These conversations are only productive if the data are objective, not anecdotal. Providers are also driven, and can be incented, by high patient satisfaction scores so that helps the team embrace the RTLS system quickly.

This is a great point, especially when many providers are paid for performance.
Yes, value-based purchasing is a game changer and is the catalyst for implementing innovative technologies such as RTLS-enabled patient flow.

Thank you for sharing your perspective on the value of real-time technologies on patient flow.
My pleasure! In my current role, I am helping healthcare organizations quantify the value they can derive from implementing RTLS solutions, and I hope this is just the beginning of the dialog with the RTLS in Healthcare Community members.

Joanna Wyganowska, MBA, PMP | VP of Marketing at Infinite Leap