The bed-blocking challenge: How can technology assist with patient flow management?
The issue of delayed transfers of care, often described as "bed-blocking", is a major concern for NHS countrywide: the growing, ageing population stressing
hospital resources and budget, increases the search for strategies that can improve both operational efficiency and patient experience.
Delayed discharges have a huge negative impact on the quality of care and wellbeing of patients that have to endure greater length of stays, with increased risk of infectious contamination, loss of autonomy and high probability to end up as outliers, getting less specialised care.
The negative impact escalates for patients in trolley waits in A&E or for those that see their surgeries being canceled due to unavailability of beds: an estimated 50.000 surgeries were canceled in NHS hospitals this January (2018) due to flu spikes and bed shortages – unprecedented measures for the NHS. The effects in ward managers is by no means less harmful, resulting in huge costs for NHS: beginning of 2016 bed-blocking had an estimated yearly cost for NHS England of £900m; last year a rise of more than 40 per cent in bed-blocking was reported.
The capacity of ward and OR managers to anticipate and plan discharges ahead, holds the key that can help reduce bed-blocking by optimising the use of resources such as beds and nursing hours, clinical information for each patient, and by supporting communication and operations intra hospital departments and inter care units.
Hospitals cannot solve this issues by themselves as it is necessary to work in a network of continuous care with active policies to support patients in local communities through public and private health units.
Here is where technology can play a key role, working as an interoperable platform connecting hospital units and social support agencies: on the one hand predicting discharges and possible earlier discharges and signaling situations that need attention.
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