Written by Angie Franks, President & CEO, Central Logic
HIT Consultant— July, 2019 — Empowered teams, standardized processes, reliable insight, automation, and measurement will improve operations, decrease leakage and improve the patient experience.
High-performance transfer centers are becoming mandatory components for any health system operating in competitive healthcare markets, which are only becoming more competitive and consolidated. That is because high-performance transfer centers help align patients with the right care, in the right location at the right time, which can play a huge role in helping health systems retain patients, reduce network leakage, control costs and increase revenue.
leaders and other health information professionals can help their organization’s transfer center improve by delivering the tools, data and processes optimizations that make it operate efficiently and its clinicians deliver a superior experience to patients and families. With that, the following are five steps toward a high-performance transfer center.
Step 1: Build the Right Team
The most important asset of any business—especially service organizations like transfer centers—is people. To succeed, you must have the right composition of personalities, skill sets, roles and training.
Establishing the right transfer team is the first step for several reasons, but most importantly, the behind-the-scenes operations of coordinating patient transfers—from assessing the patient’s condition to contacting clinicians to physically moving the patient to the correct setting—can be a complex task. The patient and his or her family, however, don’t care about all the complex calculations that go into a successful transfer. They only want a quick resolution. They want to come out of the experience feeling well-cared for. Balancing technical complexity and human emotions is a competency your team must possess.
At a difficult time, patients and their loved ones will remember that they received the care they needed quickly and smoothly. Conversely, they’ll remember—and share with anyone who will listen—a negative experience.
Once the right team is in place, technology helps them perform at their best. Automated tools and reliable data can help the people who work in the transfer center better follow the standardized processes that optimize patient transfers. When the technology is intuitive and easy to use and when employees have the right training as a foundation, the people who work in your transfer center are more productive. They can make your operations hum.
Step 2: Standardize Processes
Health systems are under pressure to make the most of every bed, every minute of every day. Achieving that goal requires smarter, more integrated technologies and standardized processes.
Leading transfer center technology offers visibility into the patient’s history, including conditions, medications and past encounters. It can provide a comprehensive, easy-to-read array of physicians and facilities that are available to treat the patient, which makes adhering to standardized processes more feasible for the transfer center team. In some cases, the best transfer decision is to keep the patient right where they are. Transfer centers can help with that, too, by facilitating telehealth
But making those decisions on a case-by-case basis, starting fresh with each encounter, doesn’t work. Standardized and optimized processes ensure every patient gets the best care.
Step 3: Deliver Reliable, Real-time Data and Insight
Keeping low-acuity patients out of high-cost settings and aligning them with appropriate care quickly is paramount. On the other hand, when a critical patient is waiting for transfer, minutes matter. When patient lives are literally on the line, organizations can’t afford to let anyone slip through the cracks.
Technologies are emerging that help providers focus on what is most useful and actionable in these high-pressure, time-sensitive situations. This actionable, high-quality, real-time data also helps users make efficient, informed decisions as they refer, admit, and move patients in, through, and out of the health system. Data-driven transfer center platforms deliver quantifiable, easy-to-analyze results that allow for swift, accurate decisions based on individual patient needs, doctor availability, and the ability to accommodate new patients.
Using well-designed, easy-to-use dashboards, giving transfer center employees fast access to data, and having the most up-to-date information about system capacity and on-call physicians speeds the time from the first contact to appropriate care.
Step 4: Automate Where Possible
Speaking of speed, manual data entry and access slows teams down, contributing to frustration and burnout. Patients and their families don’t like to wait for answers or information either. When fields are auto-populated, employees spend less time on repetitive tasks and switching between multiple screens and systems. They have everything they need on one easy-to-navigate dashboard.
There are ways to automate the workflow that supports the human element behind transfer operations. The software can create rules that automatically alert a patient’s primary care physician at each step along the way, for example. Electronic transportation orders and autofill forms that populate information about patients such as medication lists, medical history, last seen details, and more, save time that can be spent so that employees and clinicians can find the best solution, customized for each patient.
Step 5: Measure Results to Drive Improvement
Healthcare leaders can use real-time data that transfer center platforms collect to prove both clinical and financial ROI. They can also use that data to pinpoint missed patient transfer opportunities and take corrective action to improve transfer rates over time.
Measuring and continuing to improve the performance of transfer centers not only improves patient care quality and outcomes, but organizations also have more control over where patients go. This reduces high-revenue patient leakage, increases throughput, volume and admissions while streamlining operations.
The Stakes Are High
Transfer center operations also play a major role in physician, employee and patient satisfaction. A poorly run transfer center can be a source of frustration for all three groups. As a result, clinicians may hesitate to send their patients to you, employee recruitment and retention suffer, and poor patient experiences harm your reputation.
Given the high stakes and potential business and clinical benefits, healthcare organizations are increasingly looking to improve their transfer operations. Establishing the right team, leveraging best practices and process and delivering them advanced purpose-built technology with reliable data helps ensure patients access the most appropriate care sources that will deliver the optimal outcomes and reduced network leakage for improved financial performance.