Standing in a room lined with giant LED screens that display real-time data as colorful infographics, Holly Meisner, vice president of patient access at New York-Presbyterian, likened her new operation to an "air traffic control center." Only in this case, what they're managing is the flow of patients through the system and the availability of beds to put them in.
Using software developed by Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies, the goal is to eliminate the sort of bottlenecks that result in long wait times—and irate patients—at a time when hospitals are focusing on improving the patient experience and expediting processes through new technology.
"We want to be able to give patients access, and we want to make it as easy and streamlined as possible," Meisner said.
The NYP/Weill Cornell Medical Center's Patient Placement Operations Center, at East 68th Street in Manhattan, is the second one to go online at the health system this year. Meisner set up the first one in the Milstein Building at the NYP/Columbia University Medical Center campus in Washington Heights in February. She hopes to open centers at New York-Presbyterian/Allen and New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital in the coming year. Eventually, they'll be able to easily identify where beds are free and transfer incoming patients to the appropriate location.
The call center is staffed with registered nurses, so-called patient flow specialists who are using real-time data to find the appropriate beds for patients.
"We wanted that clinical knowledge that they could actually triage the patient and be able to place them in the right bed the first time and not be moving patients all over the hospital," said Meisner.
On the other side of the operations center room, environmental services personnel prioritize the cleaning of beds to make sure they're ready when needed and transport specialists help coordinate when patients need to be picked up or moved. Soon, a live video feed will be available at the operations centers to link it up with the hospital's transfer center, showing when, for instance, a stroke patient at a regional hospital outside of the city needs to be transferred to a neural ICU bed.
Although it's still early, the initial data from the Milstein operations center is encouraging, said Meisner. "We know that the patient satisfaction score has gone up and we've been able to create access for our patients." During the six months the center has been operating, the hospital has seen emergency department volume increase 7% and the time it takes to complete a transfer request from another facility has declined from 24 hours to 8 hours.
Overall, the streamlined process has reduced by 20% the time it takes for a patient to be admitted and placed in a bed, Meisner said.
Dr. Joseph Underwood III, chief of the emergency department at the NYP/Columbia University Medical Center, told Crain's he has already become a fan of the new patient placement system. "It has had a significant impact on our department," Underwood said. "We've been able to eliminate some of the downtime we have for beds.
Basically, patients are getting their beds sooner, reducing the amount of time our admitted patients spend in the ED."
And that means more time for physicians to spend with new patients, he added.
"New York-Presbyterian experiments with 'air traffic control' for emergency-room patients" originally appeared in Crain's New York Business.