It’s not always easy to please both hospital administration and your employees. In an effort to increase productivity, administrators may recommend patient census goals that are difficult to meet on a daily basis. Unfortunately, both patients and your staff suffer when goals aren’t realistic. The best way to satisfy administrators, improve patient outcomes, and keep your employees happy is to identify and address roadblocks in your patient flow.
Here are four ways you can optimize your hospital rehab census by improving flow.
1. Identify Problems with Value Stream Mapping
It’s difficult to improve flow if you don’t fully understand the challenges and bottlenecks that can decrease efficiency. Value stream maps — flow charts that depict every step in the rehab process — are an invaluable tool that can help you identify and correct issues that decrease efficiency. A good value stream map doesn’t just cover the moment that therapists begin working with patients, but actually tracks the process from the minute your staff is notified they’ll be working with a new patient.
To get started, you or a staff member will need to spend a day or two following patients through the process and note how much time each step requires. You may want to create a separate map for patients who require more staff time. Once you have a better grasp on the time each step takes, you can optimize where necessary.
2. Look for Both Major and Minor Areas of Opportunity
Value stream mapping will help you identify the little things that can affect efficiency in addition to major issues. For example, you might be able to shave precious minutes off the process by making sure that PT assistants don’t wait until a patient arrives to collect the rehab equipment and supplies needed for the session.
Eliminating a five-minute wait at the start of a session may seem like a minor thing, but if you reduce the wait for every patient, you may just have enough time to treat a few additional patients during the day.
3. Determine Your Ideal Patient Census Numbers
Ideally, your patient census should be high enough to satisfy administrative productivity edicts without overwhelming your staff. In addition, patient care and satisfaction levels may suffer if your staff rushes through therapy sessions in an attempt to meet an unrealistic quota.
Once you’ve identified factors that affect patient flow and developed solutions to address them, you can determine your ideal patient census. The number of patients each therapist can handle will vary depending on the severity of the patients’ conditions and whether the therapy is conducted in the physical therapy department or at the patient’s bedside.
4. Use Technology
User-friendly technology offers a simple way to make the most of your time and prevent delays.
Do your therapists have to leave their patients and find an available laptop or desktop if they want to view test results or other information? Tablets offer a better option. Test results and other information from your Electronic Health Record (EHR) system can be immediately accessed through the portable devices. Staff can also use them to track scheduling changes and send instant messages if they’re working in another part of the building.
Tracking systems offer another way to improve patient flow. Although less than 5 percent of hospitals currently use the systems, according to the California Healthcare Foundation, expect them to become increasingly popular as more hospitals realize their value. If your hospital does offer a tracking system, your staff can use it to determine the location of a patient who is late for a session or even find out what happened to a missing piece of equipment.
Improving patient flow and optimizing your daily census doesn’t have to mean making substantial changes to the way you run your department. With just a few little tweaks, your department can run much more efficiently.