Improving your hospital waiting times and patient flow

Austin Health's presentation at the Outpatient conference

If you were unable to attend the Outpatients: Accelerating Flows and Improving Service Integration conference in Brisbane there were some key insights you may have missed.

At the event, there was a breadth of engaging speakers, and over 150 delegates all keen to soak up the latest innovations in Outpatient care.

One of the key concerns nearly every delegate was troubled by was long hospital waiting times. As a result, we’re keen to share the outpatient solutions we developed in partnership with Austin Health which generated a lot of interest at the event.

In line with the theme Accelerating Flows and Improving Service Integration, Colleen Jackson, Quality and Projects Manager of Austin Health, identified their self-check-in and electronic calling system was able to dramatically reduce clinic wait times.

 

Health IQ's patient check in solution

Self check-in system used to dramatically reduce hospital waiting times


As one of Australia’s largest multi-site specialist clinics, Austin Health’s patients faced long hospital waiting times

As one of Victoria’s largest public Specialist Clinics, the Austin processes 250,000 appointments each year, and nearly 1000 appointments each day. Their two campuses are also spread across five locations, and consultations can often occur to patients not admitted by the hospital. In Austin Health’s presentation they recognised some core problems with their current queue management system. This included:

  •      Queuing at reception desks;
  •      Crowded waiting rooms;
  •      Privacy concerns over voice calling;
  •      Long wait times in clinics;
  •      Incorrect patient details in administration system;
  •      Clinic staff having patient name pronunciation challenges; and,
  •      Clinical staff unaware if patient had checked in or if they were ready to be seen.

Austin Health needed an immediate queue management system which also facilitated ongoing improvement initiatives

Recognising the impact these problems were having on their patient satisfaction and patient flow, Austin Health began looking for a solution that would help streamline the outpatient arrival and data collection process. Specifically they looked for a solution that:

  •      Was designed specifically for hospitals;
  •      Enabled patients to check in automatically without needing to queue up at reception;
  •      Allowed patients to leave the waiting area, thus reducing congestion, and be called back remotely ahead of their appointments; and,
  •      Facilitated the automatic capture and verification of patient data

In order to address these issues, Austin Health partnered with Health IQ to develop a complete outpatient check-in solution. Even though our solution is called Queue Manager, it does a lot more than just Queue Management. Specifically, it enabled Austin Health to achieve the following objectives:

  •      Empowerment of patients with the information they need for a stress free visit to the hospital;
  •      Capturing and verifying patient information, allowing clinicians to easily update patient status though a single portal;
  •      Winning back the time their staff currently spend on admin and dedicating it to patient care instead; and,
  •      Gaining a comprehensive overview of the patients’ journey through the hospital.

Implementation of the Queue Management system also allowed Austin Health to develop criteria for ongoing improvement initiatives. Because all patient calling and completing is conducted electronically, time stamps for the call and complete times are captured. This provides the hospital with a means of evaluating their ongoing performance based on the average speed with which they can process patients. The system allows the tracking of:

  •     Actual patient arrival;
  •     Patient call;
  •     Consultation time; and,
  •     In-clinic wait time.

Austin Health's self check-in and calling system
Austin Health’s self check-in and calling system was a Victorian Public Health first and was crucial in improving the Austin’s patient flow


What happened to Austin Health’s queue times? The numbers tell a compelling story

The longer the Austin Health’s Queue Manager System is implemented the more robust their data sample becomes, allowing Austin Health to gradually improve their service by addressing areas of concerns or reinforcing positive trends in the data.

Outcomes for the Austin Health were immediately visible. From the outset there were:

  •     Shorter or no queues at reception desks;
  •     Less crowding in waiting rooms;
  •     Positive feedback from staff: less queuing and crowding, no name pronunciation challenges, and a visual display of patient flow;
  •     Call and completion compliance – 59% (Sept 2015)
  •     KPI – 70% of clinicians compliant 80% of the time
  •     Median wait time for clinics = 19 minutes (September 2015)
  •     KPI = less than 20 minute median across all clinics

Graph showing the impact of Q-Manager on hospital waiting time

Graph mapping the decrease in median hospital waiting times after Queue Managers rollout


What you can learn from the Austin to improve your hospital’s patient flow?

We’ve written previously about Austin Health and their journey towards accurate patient admission predictions and for Health IQ, their presentation at the conference showed they’re well on the way to achieving their core objectives behind the implementation of the system – and we’re delighted and proud to have been part of this success.

Their presentation is a great insight into the impact a Queue Management system can have on a hospital’s metrics. Clearly, there were some really impressive results at the Austin and they’re likely to continue seeing improvement as they keep monitoring their data.

If you’re looking to improve your hospital’s patient flow or are facing a similar problem of long hospital waiting times feel free to view the Austin’s original presentation from the conference to see the challenges they were able to overcome.

If you’ve got any questions about the presentation above, or would like to discuss how Queue Manager can improve your patient flow, get in touch now. Call us on 1300 554 997 or email dave.piggott@healthiq.com.au.

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