Want to Improve Throughput? Focus on Human Beings First

It’s easy for hospital performance and management measures to become abstract, disassociated with the human beings they effect. But length of stay, throughput efficiency, O/E ratios, HCAHPS and preventable harm all change the lives of the people who give and receive care at your hospital. Efficient patient throughput, the heart of hospital operations, changes those lives for the better. Throughput isn’t just a project or a metric. So when we talk about using logistics to orchestrate the most efficient throughput, we like to focus on the humans in the discussion. We work with hospitals to reliably, predictably address challenges that frustrate real people—patients, nurses, doctors and executives. The graphic below nicely summarizes the human side of patient throughput:


This human side guides how we work with hospitals to develop the systems and software together that orchestrate consistently efficient throughput. This complete logistical approach applies the most efficient human systems for throughput, powered by software built specifically to make those systems work. Reliably. Every day. Forever.

Consider for example Order Logistics, a combination of new roles, better processes and software for hospitals to correctly prioritize, coordinate and complete patient diagnostic services on time across multiple people and departments. We worked with hospitals to develop the method and the software for Order Logistics (part of a complete throughput logistics solution) to address real challenges for human beings in the hospital:

  • Never have a patient not ready for a test or scan
  • Never have a nurse ask a patient, “Did you get your MRI?” or “Where did you come from?”
  • Never double book services
  • Give patients and families a clear itinerary of care for each day
  • Let nurses and service technicians focus serving patients, not making calls and chasing information
  • Get the test results doctors’ need faster, and continuously, accurately update them on order status and results
  • Make uncertain things predictable—who’s next, why, are they ready, what do they need from whom, when
  • Deliver appropriate, on-time services according to updated order and patient status information

Simply improving processes in individual service areas wouldn’t fix these human challenges of managing all orders. We introduced a new model, with a critical new role: The central order organizer. At the center of an efficient hub-and-spoke model,  the order organizer processes all patient diagnostic and service requests to best route and prioritize physician orders. This order organizer coordinates with all service departments and unit clinical care coordinators to coordinate simultaneous patient demand across the hospital, so the right patients receive services in the order that best serves discharge targets and overall throughput.

Order Organizer Orchestrates On-Time, Correctly Prioritized Orders and Services

The central order organizer can instantly see all orders of patients that could go home today, or of any service area that is behind. With a live view of patient itineraries and service-area schedules, they can best plan how to recover. Logistics and associated software gives hospital staff the power to solve complicated problems at a glance, immediately.

We and our partner hospitals also recognized that other software for order entry and scheduling will not power a logistical model. The order organizer and other key players must have logistics software to effectively orchestrate all orders and services for all patients, every day. For example, order entry systems capture data, but do not orchestrate or prioritize orders (and in some cases they put orders in a black hole, with no visibility for nurses). Scheduling software lets departments put appointments on a calendar and is designed to optimize throughput and volume for a department, not for patients or organizations. Neither type of software shows conflicts among departments, and they can create more chaos than manual management.

So we built logistics software specifically to enable the new order and service model. The software coordinates and reports order activity and completion across all patients and departments. Everyone sees what they need, when they need it:

  • Order organizers, nurses, service areas, doctors and patients always know order status and readiness
  • All daily orders and their effect on patient length of stay
  • Clear, updated, accurate patient itineraries
  • Real-time department status updates
  • Hub prioritization and queuing

Our shared mission with hospitals to solve very specific human problems guided us to develop a unified human and software system that addresses order logistics in the most efficient and sustainable way possible.

We’re proud of our solution and our productive partnerships with hospitals to transform operations and improve care. That said, we share this example not to brag (well, maybe a little), but to show how a human-first approach delivers the best solutions to improve and sustain exceptional performance in the metrics that matter to your hospital.

POSTED BY Doug Walker

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