Bed management and patient transfer automation
Patient transfers within the public-health sector and even between the public and private sectors can take a lot of time, resources, and frustration to achieve. In healthcare, we do not always have the luxury of time when a patient’s life is at stake, and we generally do not have enough human resources to dedicate medical staff to phoning around various facilities to find a bed and an appointed physician to accept a patient. This can be the same when trying to admit patients in a system that at times is overwhelmed by the number of persons who visit especially accident and emergency units.
Often in our public-health system, admissions tend to be very high, and a lot of time and effort is used to find accommodation for patients within and outside of a facility. The increasing number of people presenting with late-stage non-communicable diseases has in recent years exacerbated this situation.
In addition, we continue to have a high number of road traffic accidents, which also affects bed availability and admissions in hospitals. We, therefore,need to look at how we can have a centralised view of beds available across all of the over twenty public hospitals across the island to be better able to manage this situation in terms of both admissions and transfers.
MORE EFFICIENT SOLUTION
When the William Newton Hospital in Kansas in the United States found that it was tying up nurse managers and other staff to make calls to find available beds for transfer of patients, the administration decided that they needed to find a more efficient solution to this problem. They turned to automated bed management.
“The implementation of the patient-transfer technology freed up nurses who were stuck making these calls and allowed them to get back to their patients. All the nurses wanted to do was take the best care of their patients. This helped reduce some of the stress the nurses were feeling,” according to Chief Nursing Officer Debbie Marrs (www.healthcareitnews.com).
It is time that we begin to look at more effective and efficient means of managing bed occupancy, availability and transfer of patients between facilities to ensure the best outcome for them, as well as the medical staff and hospital. This can be achieved through an electronic bed management system that allows for transfers within and between facilities by using integrated technology to manage these processes.
The hospital information-management system, which has integrated bed management, can go a far way to solve these and other admissions-related issues and will be most effective if adopted across private and public facilities. We need to simply look at the current experience of the University of the West Indies to see how electronic bed management has greatly improved the process of admission and transfers. The bed-management system allows a hospital to have a real time, spatial view of bed availability across all wards, which makes it so that a patient can be easily admitted at the click of a button. This saves time and resources and allows for greater patient satisfaction when waiting time is reduced, and treatment can begin sooner.
It also frees up the healthcare worker to focus on other important tasks when there is less time spent trying to figure out manually what beds may be available. Once a patient is discharged, it is immediately updated on the system, and so there is a real-time representation of the current capacity of the hospital. With respect to transfers, hospitals have the option of sharing this data centrally so that they can seamlessly transfer patients across facilities without having to first call around, which can be a frustrating and time-consuming process.
There is an urgent need in our current system to manage this aspect of patient care for improved health outcomes while freeing up healthcare workers to focus on more clinical matters. This would also lead to more accurate admission information that would allow the Government and private health sector to be able to make plans for improvement using evidence-based data. This would lead to a more efficiently coordinated system, especially for emergency cases that can mean the difference between life and death.
n Doug Halsall is the chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.