Top 5 tips for implementing a patient flow management solution

How can hospitals successfully implement patient flow management solutions? HBI spoke to healthcare industry leaders about the best practices that their institutions have employed in doing so.


Patient flow management solutions allow hospitals to effectively manage real-time patient transfers and bed logistics to improve care quality. The patient flow management solutions market is categorized into hardware, software, and services. U.S. healthcare providers prefer software solutions as they offer better integration capabilities with computers and mobile phones. Patient flow management products enable users to identify operational bottlenecks and make informed business decisions. HBI recently spoke with five experts from U.S. healthcare organizations about their experiences with patient flow solutions and their top advice for choosing and successfully implementing a system. The contributing experts are:

  • Kettering Health Network:
    John Weimer, vice president, network emergency, trauma and operations command center
  • Sharp HealthCare:
    Janet Hanley, vice president of patient technology, innovation, efficiencies
  • UCHealth:
    Robert Leeret, senior director, UCHealth DocLine and LifeLine critical care transport
    Larissa Thorniley, director, UCHealth DocLine
  • Carilion Clinic:
    Melanie Morris, senior director, Carilion transfer and communications center
  • Providence Health & Services:
    Darren Redick, executive director, support and professional services, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett


Convince C-Suite leaders to invest in a solution

Leeret: It is really important to convince senior staff members to spend the capital to help track patient and bed logistics. I think it becomes much easier to convince leaders once there are capacity limitations—for example, the hospitals are unable to accept transfers because they don’t enough have beds or cannot procure beds in a timely manner. The solution needs to be implemented across the patient continuum; hence, educating frontline staff is key to ensure successful implementation.

Morris: Hospitals must have C-suite level buy-in to support and empower medical centers to own centralized patient throughput. This can be followed by establishing rules and role expectations across the board to help educate front-line staff uniformly about the solution.

Weimer: Hospitals implementing the software need to make a system decision. Once you convince your executive leaders to buy in, the rest of it is change management. The leader in the organization should approach change management from a forgiving standpoint. They can’t get worked up over difficult conversations.


Build a strong vendor relationship

Redick: Hospitals should look for a vendor who will not just hand you what their tools are but are willing to develop and design those tools to meet your specific organizational needs regarding throughput and patient flow work. Ensure the vendor support you receive includes software developers, data scientists, industry experts in healthcare systems, and customer service support. We found a partner in our vendor who met us where our needs were and worked to learn from us as we shared our vision and developed our future state in healthcare together.

Hanley: We chose our vendor over others to get patient and asset management products together. Hospitals should invest in a vendor offering integrated products to increase efficiency. Additionally, we used our vendor’s consulting services. They embedded people in our facility for a period once we went live. Sharp HealthCare and some of the vendor’s other clients provided feedback on the consulting team’s performance to the vendor.


Network with other health systems to avoid pitfalls

Leeret: Before selecting a suitable vendor, hospitals should connect with other health systems that have implemented the same solution to understand pros and cons. Our vendor has a client referral program where they provide a list of organizations and individuals that have gone through similar issues. It would be best to network with health systems of your size to mitigate some future challenges your organization might face.

Hanley: My advice for hospitals implementing the solution would be to talk to other sites that have done this to avoid falling into the same pitfalls. Last year, we had 12 different health systems come for a site visit to spend time in our hospitals and interact with the solution users.


Develop sound implementation strategies

Weimer: Using Lean and program management principles, we developed a stakeholder registry that included campus-based clinicians and command center employees. Then we held a systemwide kickoff meeting to let the organization know about the solution transition. This was followed by key stakeholders conducting meetings with staff who work on the solution daily across each campus, department, and discipline.

Morris: We initially implemented the solution for bed placement and transfer functionality at our main campus, Roanoke Memorial. In 2017, we added our second largest campus to the solution in New River Valley and started doing bed placements remotely and taking on transfer functions for them. This helped us offload the demand from Roanoke Memorial and provided additional transfer admissions and volume to the New River campus.

Leeret: Hospitals should create a strong capacity management strategy, because the solution just measures dysfunction and automates it. Hospitals should also understand that they will be collecting a lot of data, so anyone considering this needs a data analyst to help them understand the data and get it out in a meaningful way.

Thorniley: The solution is as important as the EHR. Hospitals’ high-level staff should recognize this and set up training appropriately for clinicians and staff members.


Establish KPIs to track solution performance

Morris: ER overcrowding is a major problem in most hospitals. We tried to minimize the amount of time it takes to move an admitted ER patient to a clean, ready inpatient bed. We set an internal goal time of 30 minutes, which cut our initial times in half. This has allowed us to manage our ER space in a more efficient way, which results in greater savings. We also reduced the queue time for internal patient transports (moving a patient from point A to point B) from an average of 20 minutes to six to eight minutes.

Redick: The solution supported process changes related to patient progression rounds, huddles, and measuring throughput while eliminating waste. Patient discharges moved up earlier in the day, allowing for better flow of new admissions. Patient room turn times improved, and the number of missed daily cleans for housekeeping improved. Transport delays were significantly reduced.

Weimer: One of the key metrics we’ve looked at is our environmental services turnaround time. From the time a patient leaves the bed to the time the bed is ready for the next patient used to take an hour at all of our facilities. We’ve now seen decreases in that time. We’ve also seen ICU capacity increase, because we’re able to get patients out of the ICU faster.

Interested in learning more about this topic? Contact the team at Clarivate Healthcare Business Insights today.