Doing more with less: Ways to improve patient flow in hospital settings
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Background: Recent reports suggest that public hospitals are unable to respond to changing population needs. It is critical that innovative approaches be developed to assess and improve the management of hospital resources and improve patient flow. This article presents findings from a study that applies process management principles - typically used in the manufacturing industry - to healthcare services. Method: An interactive visual software program, Tecnomatix Plant Simulation , was used to map processes within sonography in the imaging department of a public hospital, within New South Wales, Australia. The map was informed by data, which included the department layout; number of diagnostic rooms available; available equipment; staff rosters; procedure times; scheduling processes; and patient-wait periods. Using the software, data were integrated to provide a visual animation, superimposed on the lay-out of the department. Results: To assess opportunities for improvement, parameters influencing patient flow were manipulated using the software program. These included variables that influence room use, including staffing, room availability and scheduling procedures. Simulating improvement strategies within a virtual environment had several benefits - strategies were tested instantaneously; they could be viewed as a visual animation; there was no disruption to existing hospital processes; and there was no risk of resistance to change among clinicians. Conclusion: This article demonstrates the potential value of process management tools in improving patient flow in hospital settings. It indicates that, using interactive animation, innovative ways to manage and deploy hospital resources can be tested virtually, devoid of the many challenges typically associated with trialling changes in the physical setting. This finding has important implications for hospital managers charged with the responsibility of doing more with less.
Asia Pacific Journal of Health Management
© 2012 Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal website for access to the definitive, published version.