Emergency Departments often take the blame for delays or bottlenecks in patient throughput (also known as patient flow), because that is where many of the symptoms of throughput issues manifest: long patient wait or boarding times, inability to find available beds, and frustrated department directors, nurses, patients, and family members.
Just because throughput challenges are most obvious in the ED, however, does not make it the source of the problem. In fact, The Joint Commission revised its standards in 2012 to reflect that, “although patient flow problems often manifest in the ED, their origins may be multifactorial and stem from other areas of the hospital.” (Read the full standards revision announcement here.)
The Joint Commission’s throughput standards now require that hospital administrators, as well as any employee in a “leadership” position, use data systematically to:
- Monitor and manage patient flow throughout the organization
- Identify, anticipate, and mitigate cyclical trends
- Create a shared vision, clear goals, and accountability for improvement throughout the organization
When seeking to improve throughput processes, hospital administrators should begin at the end — delays in patient discharge processes and slow bed turnover times can have a major impact on patient flow, extending wait times and creating bottlenecks that affect many other departments throughout the hospital.
The key to meeting The Joint Commission’s standards and driving continuous improvement hospital-wide lies in access to accurate, comprehensive data. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and throughput is no exception. Technologies like BedWatch Bed Control, BedWatch Transport Control, and the forthcoming BedWatch Admit Control, provide exactly that: extensive, time-and-date-stamped data around each point of the throughput process.
This comprehensive data helps our users identify chronic process issues, find the true sources of delays, and measure progress toward improvement with robust, built-in reports.