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According to the journal Health Affairs, 31 cents of every healthcare dollar is spent on hospital care. That adds up to approximately $750 billion per year. Clearly, any inefficiencies in the delivery of hospital care has a significant impact on healthcare costs, as well as the timeliness and quality of patient care. The good news is that many such problems can be solved by improving patient flow.

Inefficient patient flow has a direct impact on a hospital’s bottom line. The longer it takes to admit, evaluate, triage and treat patients, the fewer patients the hospital can see. In addition, Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies monitor such metrics as patient status, intensity of service, and severity of order to determine if a patient’s stay will be reimbursed. Hospitals also face penalties in the form of reduced reimbursements for excessive readmission of patients within 30 days of treatment.

At the core of patient flow is hospital bed management. Also called capacity management, bed management involves the allocation of beds and related services, such as admission, nursing care, doctor visits, diagnostics and treatment. Effective bed management optimizes patient flow and reduces the risk of delays and errors in patient triage, placement and treatment.

The right technology is becoming essential to improving hospital bed management. According to research from HIMSS Analytics, adoption of bed management software is quickly increasing as hospitals struggle to improve patient flow with limited resources and headcounts. The latest bed management solutions offer significant advances over traditional tools, which focused on tracking bed availability and automatically alerting admissions personnel when a bed is ready for another patient. These legacy solutions added complexity to the IT infrastructure, created another data silo, and increased costs for maintenance and training while doing little to improve patient flow.

Today’s bed management applications are patient-centric and provide real-time visibility into each patient’s status through a centralized, integrated interface. Radio frequency identification (RFID) chips and proximity readers track patients as they move throughout the hospital, automatically capturing data for bed management software. Pens and clipboards are replaced with mobile devices that help reduce errors and aid in the care-related decision of doctors, nurses and staff.

These solutions also inform the operational decisions of management. Hospital executives have instant access to dashboards, performance metrics, automated reports, snapshot views of specific areas of the hospital, and historical data.

Adopters of modern bed management tools typically report improved patient flow and increased capacity as a result of streamlined processes rather than physical expansion. Hospital personnel can be more productive and collaborative, and patients enjoy faster, higher quality care with fewer readmissions. All of these factors contribute to lower costs and higher revenue.

With healthcare costs expected to rise and reimbursements being tied to quality of care, hospitals need to evaluate patient flow and invest in initiatives designed to improve the effectiveness of all processes and systems involved. The first step is to identify inefficiencies and obstacles to communication. The second step is to develop an implementation plan for bed management software to ensure that each patient receives fast, effective, coordinated care.

by John Flores, Vice President of Marketing, Pivot Technology Solutions