Technology Reduces Inpatient Stays

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Monday, 25 November 2013 15:54

Some simple uses of technology make it easier to send patients home sooner. Shorter inpatient stays and improved quality benefit everyone involved. In just-released data from 14 New Jersey hospitals, eliminating bottlenecks and standardizing processes meant briefer stays of up to 50 percent.

The New Jersey Hospital Association's Partnership for Patients worked with the Institute for Healthcare Optimization to analyze data.  They found inefficiencies including irregular use of operating rooms, admission delays and uneven discharge processes. All impacted how long patients stayed. This study, as well as other pilot projects, provide lessons on how to help both patients and hospitals.

Reducing the overall stay begins with the first patient interaction whether in the emergency department or registration. Correct, complete information sharing from the beginning reduces errors, improves quality of information available, and increases communications between patients and providers.

Health information exchanges (HIEs) have been shown to reduce wait times and provide a strong foundation for the inpatient journey. A study by the American College of Emergency Physicians just released a few weeks ago showed that access to HIEs can save more than $1 million in emergency room costs from about 500 patients through a reduction in lab and radiology services, consultations and readmissions. Other ways which show promise are scannable, secure cards which include patients’ medical histories and medication lists, as well as shared health system records which include physician offices, hospitals, radiology, etc.

Secondly, technology also improves communication throughout the patient journey. Several technologies exist that provide real-time tracking of patients, staff and equipment to greatly improve workflow and efficiency. Improved documentation shortens stays by placing the patient in the right unit with the right level of staff and care; enhancing procedure scheduling, equipment tracking and bed management while reducing phone calls and paperwork.
Thirdly, use of technology improves quality of care, sending patients home sooner, and lessening the change of readmission.  The use of real-time data allows for the capture of important data points from documentation and can signal comorbidities or underlying causes of conditions which might impact care. The use of integrated or “big data” can also provide holistic, real-time understanding of patient’s condition, so all symptoms and issues are being addressed as quickly as they appear.
Improved inpatient patient education through the use of technology can help reduce readmissions while shortening the discharge process.  Additionally, hospitals can determine if discharge instructions have been given to patients. Once discharged, patient transition services to monitor post-hospital care before an emergency occurs.
While pressures continue to mount to reduce costs, investing in technology can pay dividends for health care providers and patients alike to shorten hospital stays and improve quality of care.