Could dashboard and analytics be the answer to the A&E waiting time crisis?
Accident and Emergency departments are under constant strain, and headlines about increasing waiting times make an almost constant appearance.
In fact, it was recently reported that there has been a huge spike in the number of patients being forced to wait more than 12 hours to be seen.
And earlier this month the Royal College of Surgeons suggested that surgeons should be posted at hospital front doors to turn away non-urgent patients from A&E in efforts to prevent the cancellations of routine operations due to overcrowding and ‘bed-blocking’.
In part, this is down to the sheer number of patients walking through the doors at A&E departments across the country.
But outdated administration processes and a failure to keep track of patient progress are also causing frustration, while hospitals are constantly struggling to maintain staffing levels during peak periods.
The use of digital healthcare and technology however, and data and analytics platforms, now mean it is possible for hospitals to be much more efficient in managing patients, plan staffing levels better by being able to predict peak periods, and also ensure a smoother patient journey by streamlining the administration process and flow.
Better patient flow management
Flow management is essential in giving frontline staff and management a clear, accurate and insightful view of a patient’s journey during the entirety of their hospital stay. Knowing how many patients are at each stage can help avoid bottlenecks, and provide vital feedback for forward-thinking operational planning.
Using dashboard technology, patients can become visible within the hospital’s system from the moment they ‘check in’ using a kiosk or at the reception. At this point, every person that patient will have a touch point with during their appointment will have access to the information they need, like the nature of the appointment and relevant medical history.
As the patient progresses through their appointment, their information can be updated from any location within the hospital, with the information feeding back to a central point, removing the need for duplicating paper records.
The dashboard can also be used to instantly update the patient’s records, and by the time they reach the next stage in their appointment, their information will already be updated in the system – rather than waiting for paper copies to be delivered and then duplicated again.
Streamlining the patient flow is an essential aspect of hospital management and patient care. It is also something many hospitals are failing on, considering that NHS bed-blocking rose 42% in the last year.
Clear, accurate and actionable data
The influx of patients to A&E departments can quickly become overwhelming – in 2015/16 A&E departments in England saw 20.5m attendances – and it is easy to understand why patients can become ‘lost’ in the process when staff is forced to deal with paper records, which regularly need to be duplicated.
Clear, accurate, and real-time information is essential for a busy department, allowing multiple users to access the information they need to ensure patients are dealt with efficiently, and more importantly, safely.
Allowing for information to be uploaded once and then instantly reproduced on a different mobile device without having to be entered again, vastly reduces the chances of human error – not out of the question when staff are busy – ensuring patient safety is high at all times.
Having access to this information also makes it easier for managers to forward plan and predict demand on a daily and hourly basis.
Being able to identify peaks and troughs in departments at different points in the year – like those associated with bad weather or the weekend – allows managers to rotate their staffing levels appropriately, ensuring rotas are in place to meet higher demand, without putting added strain on front line staff.
Implementing these types of data-centric systems can seem a daunting task for managers – particularly those with more ‘legacy’ based systems. But the long-term benefits of a more accurate and manageable patient flow platform is only going to benefits hospitals in the future, not to mention improve patient outcomes.