Reason 1 for Poor Patient Throughput: Hospital Departments Act in Selfish Isolation, Not in System Harmony

Some organizational obstacles transcend continents and cultures. This New Zealand business consultant posted a terrific look at the dysfunction of teams working with selfish objectives that undermine the goals of the organization. His post resonates because he doesn’t focus on any single industry or type of company, but the lessons apply universally. We consistently see departments in hospitals working in self-interest and at cross purposes. It’s the number one root cause of poor patient throughput.

We’ve posted about this silo dynamic before, citing an example of a manufacturing company that tried to improve a 10-machine process by individually optimizing each machine. The project failed (quite expensively) because the company didn’t consider the handoffs among machines that would make the entire system more efficient and productive.

In hospitals, this isolated self-interest constantly acts against efficient patient flow. Nothing is predictable. Everything remains variable because one person or part of the system doesn’t know what the other people or parts are doing. The chaos of the day dominates, without a sense of system and overall patient throughput priorities. Activities of patient care are fragmented and handoffs are poor, as each person or department only focuses on the part of care that he or it is responsible for. These misaligned incentives of individual departments betray the goal of the system: Continuously efficient throughput for all patients, all the time.

(Let us clarify: We are not blaming individuals for these breakdowns. Nurses and case managers, doctors and technicians all want to do the best things for the patient. It’s the dysfunctional, fragmented throughput operations at many hospitals that defy those goals. Caregivers will embrace a system that helps them succeed and focus on better patient care.)

A logistical approach to patient throughput eliminates the variability and fragmentation and establishes predictable and reliable operations. It involves new thinking within the hospital—a mindset that embraces efficiency across the entire system. To ensure that hospital people and departments act in harmony, a logistical approach introduces a centralized care coordination model. This hub-and-spoke approach (familiar to logistics in other industries) ensures that everyone providing patient care does the right, most productive things, all the time, harmoniously across all departments.

Finally, hospitals need logistics software built specifically to make a logistical control system work. The right software provides the tools and visibility to orchestrate throughput across all people and departments, advancing logistical throughput milestones with the greatest possible efficiency.

We spoke recently to hospital financial and operational expert Samantha Platzke, CEO of Ohio-based hospital consulting firm Remarkable Results. She shared her firsthand perspective on the power of logistics to bring harmony and efficiency to patient throughput in hospitals:

“Logistics for patient throughput provides the key to significant, sustainable improvements in hospital operations, I’ve seen dramatic results in hospitals that embrace logistics for throughput. Hospitals routinely reduce length-of-stay by half a day or more, often within just a few months. Many can reduce length of stay by a full day. I’ve also seen hospitals increase effective bed capacity by hundreds of beds. With a logistical foundation for operations in place, the hospitals can sustain these gains while keeping costs low and improving quality and satisfaction.”

POSTED BY Doug Walker

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