The National Emergency Access Targets (NEAT) four hour rule has had significant improvements on timelines of care for patients throughout hospitals both in the ED and inpatient wards, with no adverse impact on quality and safety of care.
Nevertheless, meeting 4 hour NEAT is no mean feat. News of failing targets are highly reported and stir the hazardous pot causing distrust and adverse impacts on hospital reputations. The hospitals we speak to tell us the solution that will have the most impact on improving their NEAT compliance, is to manage patient flow better.
Managing patient flow more efficiently is helping some hospitals to not only recover their performance targets, but to secure the public’s confidence in the health care system.
So what does ‘managing patient flow’ actually mean? It’s about ensuring improved visibility of the capacity to meet demand, across all areas of the hospital.
Does your hospital allow staff from across all areas of the hospital to see real-time bed data? Can any staff member look to see where a bed is available, and when one is likely to become available, so they can swiftly transfer an ED patient out of ED within the four hour period, and book an elective surgery patient into surgery, knowing a bed will be ready for them, upon completion of the surgery?
Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) came to us with 95% of their patients in ED requiring admission exceeding the 4 hour NEAT rule. They were burdened by disparate systems, some manual, all running in isolation of one another. There was little visibility of ward capacity, and the man hours that went into checking on where and when beds would be available, was staggering and costly.
RMH knew they had to make some significant changes to the way patients flowed through the hospital in order to improve their bleak NEAT results.
Within a year of implementing Health IQ’s Patient Flow Manager Software RMH has seen a staggering increase in their NEAT compliance with 38% of patients in ED now being admitted to a bed within the 4 hour window, pushing overall NEAT above 70%.
Not only has Patient Flow Manager improved their NEAT compliance, it has:
- Improved patient flow across all areas of the hospital;
- Enhanced inter-ward communication with less time spent on phones and in meetings;
- Enabled the identification of trends to better predict demand;
- Reduced admission and discharge times, directly boosting nursing productivity; and
- Improved allied referral and interventions systems.
As Patient Flow Manager is a web-based tool, it can be easily accessible across the entire hospital by all staff. Accessibility of real-time data is valuable when managing patient flow, and reducing the administrative burden and chance for error, when staff record vital patient information.
Dave Piggott is the Executive Director of Health IQ and has over 20 years’ experience in Health IT. A graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and with a Masters in Open Systems (IT), Dave has worked extensively in the Patient Flow area, and helped over 30 Australian hospitals to improve their flow of patients.
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