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Patient Discharges – a Stumbling Block to Patient Access

TeleTracking_Patient AccessThe biggest obstacle to hospital access may be the back door.

People who work in hospitals know that the discharge process can be a stumbling block to patient access because it takes time and a lot of staff / patient interaction.  The impact though goes far beyond getting a patient discharged.

Often it takes hours for word to get around that a bed is vacant and is available for a patient who is probably waiting in the emergency room.  That’s because that information typically comes from the hospitals Admission Discharge Transfer (ADT) system, which is not real time.


The discharge process usually goes something like:

  • The patient is discharged.
  • Time passes.
  • The discharge is entered into the ADT.
  • Time Passes.
  • The environmental services department is notified.
  • Time Passes.
  • The bed is prepared for the next patient.
  • Phone calls are made to let the ED / patient placement know that the bed is ready for a new patient.

Meanwhile, patients are stacking up in the emergency department waiting for a bed – much like how flights stack up at the airport when there’s a delay early in the day.  Real-time automation and notification can change that.

By electronically tracking the milestones between when a physician orders a discharge and the actual departure, the progress can be automatically displayed for those who need to know – accelerating the process.

As an example, when the discharge status is changed from ‘pending’ to ‘confirmed’, in TeleTracking’s system, the patient’s bed can be pre-assigned to a new admission.  This saves a considerable amount of time and provides a more accurate census picture.  Furthermore, patient placement can tell when a discharge candidate’s bed should be ready for another patient, an ICU nurse can better estimate when a bed will become available in a step-down unit, case managers can anticipate when to start the discharge planning process for a patient, etc.

Automation can also slash the time wasted between one patient’s departure and another’s bed placement.  Today, and RTLS-enabled wristband given to a patient upon admission can trigger an immediate discharge notice precisely when the patient leaves the room or designated discharge area, cutting several hours from the placement process.

For example, a 1,000 bed health system who wanted to improve their patient flow process implemented TeleTracking’s Automated Discharge solution to not only improve the discharge process, but to also give staff visibility to real-time dirty bed notifications.  Results show a decrease in lost bed time of 54.5 minutes per stay.  Lost bed time is the difference between the real-time discharge and the ADT discharge.  This represents $18,265 in revenue opportunity weekly and nearly $1Mil annually.

Reducing ‘dead bed’ time improves capacity without adding a single new bed.  A hospital with poorly managed capacity turns its staffed beds, on average, about 48 times a year.  Whereas, hospitals that have optimized their capacity turn their beds over 60 times a year.  For a  300 bed hospital with an average contribution margin of $3,000 / discharge, that’s an additional $10Mil per year.

The bottom line is automation makes beds become available faster – much faster.

TeleTracking has led the way through the years – starting with its TransportTracking™ application which automated the dispatching process thus decreasing transporter response times and increasing the number of patient transports per hour.  Our breakthrough with dispatcherless logic increased efficiency by automatically assigning calls to the closest transporter with the necessary equipment. With the integration of RTLS to our platform, we now have the ability to coordinate discharges with EVS and admissions, thus providing a comprehensive capacity management solution.

Click here to download Regions Hospital case study on improving transport  performance.

Hospital automation is a concept whose real time has come.  Monitoring and managing operations like discharges in absolute real time is a financial strategy that more and more hospital executives are embracing.

To learn more about how a solution like this can improve your patient discharge process and access to care, click here to download our datasheet.

Categories: Author: Jon Poshywak, Patient Access, Real-Time Locating System (RTLS)