Resolve to Lose ‘Wait’ in 2013

We in healthcare face a lot of uncertainty in the coming year. Deciding where to place our focus—our New Year’s Resolution if you will—can be difficult.  Simply put, we cannot look at the uncertainty and make it certain.  What we can do is look at what is certain yet problematic, and resolve to make it better.  In our case, what is definite in 2013 is that our Emergency Departments will be busier than they have ever been in the past.

The ED was taxed with record patient traffic last year, the year before that, and so on.  All the while, many facilities have adopted marketing plans to publish their ED wait times on billboards and online with the hope of driving even more traffic to their facilities.

These factors compound on one another and set up the ED to fail.  This failure results in burnt-out staff members, unsatisfied patients, and bruised hospital reputations due to a perceived bottleneck in the emergency department.  This perception, however, is often times flawed and a busy ED is typically the result of an organizational failure to address capacity management.  Our organizations must stop looking at the bottleneck in our EDs as an “ED problem” and start looking up on the floors at how they manage patient flow throughout the continuum.

I have resolved to lose 20 pounds this year.  Your organization is likely going to resolve to lose wait in your ED.  Neither of our goals are achievable without making changes and having tools to measure our progress.  Options regarding those tools and changes abound for both of us.

I could make the expensive choice to buy a home gym and hire a trainer and a nutritionist to help me. However, like every organization I work with, I have too much going on to take the time that would require and I can’t pay for the expense. Also, the downstream cost of continuing to be overweight is another thing I simply can’t afford. However, what I can do (and afford) is exercise and pay attention to what I eat.  And the first step in achieving my goal is to purchase a scale to track my progress. weight

Building new ED facilities may appear to be the answer for your heavy wait problem. For example, recently in Colorado a facility remodeled their ED at a cost of $400 million to better handle rising patient volumes.  While your organization may not be able to afford a $400 million remodel, it also cannot afford to do nothing.

So I suggest we start with buying an organizational ‘scale’. Because, what you can do (and afford) is adopt technology that allows you to customize workflows to suit your operational needs, and take action to correct behaviors if your facility is headed in the wrong direction. To ensure your wait loss goals are met, you can use capacity management software to create real-time reports that allow you to take action without leaving the report screen.

Ninety percent of resolutions made over New Year’s champagne fizzle by the time we’re lighting the coals on Memorial Day. Distractions and lack of resources may cause us to miss our objectives, but the main reason we fail to achieve our personal or organizational goals is because we continuously stare the problem square in the face instead of looking beyond it to the solution.

It is time to stop focusing solely on the ED as the source of your flow problems.

If your organization chooses to look beyond the ED and manage patient flow system-wide I guarantee you will decrease wait times, LWBS, and boarding while improving patient satisfaction, staff responsiveness, and financial margins.

If your organization is resolving to lose wait in the New Year by focusing on improving patient flow, I can help. I’ll be your patient flow personal trainer: Click here for details (one hour patient flow consultation, free of charge)