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Hospitals Must Look to Predictive Analytics to Improve Efficiency

By Rich Krueger, CEO, Hospital IQ.

Rich Krueger
Rich Krueger

With digital information flowing from countless sources, including electronic health records (EHRs), wearable devices and digital maps that monitor global disease outbreaks, the healthcare industry is taking a big data approach to improving patient outcomes and enhancing the daily lives of countless others.

Yet one large part of the healthcare ecosystem isn’t efficiently capitalizing on the vast amount of data that is right at their fingertips: hospital operations. Many leaders and line managers are unable to take advantage of the readily available data sets from the billions of dollars invested in IT systems that would allow them to improve operational efficiency and provide an exceptional level of care. Instead, they rely largely on spreadsheets and back-of-the-envelope math along with first-hand experience to make critical daily operational decisions, such as scheduling operating rooms and reducing emergency department boarding.

Some hospitals have recognized that driving growth starts with superior planning and optimization. These forward-thinking facilities are leveraging their data using a hospital operations management software platform to revolutionize the operational and financial performance of various parts of their organization including ED, inpatient, perioperative and clinics.

The result? Higher resource utilization, better quality of care, satisfied employees and increased revenue.

Tap existing data resources to create growth

The OR suite’s multifaceted nature makes it extremely difficult to optimize for overall efficiency. As a result, millions of dollars are wasted each year. Still, it’s a primary financial driver for most hospitals and presents one of the largest opportunities for increasing profit margins through operational improvements.

In efforts to improve services while reducing expenses, perioperative leaders have been dependent on consultants, manual spreadsheets, and trial-and-error experimentation, leading to results that are often inaccurate, time-consuming, and have significant lag time to understand impact. These traditional methods should be abandoned.

Hospitals must embrace new analytics software platforms to deliver a practical application of analytics to the business of healthcare.

Predictive analytics utilizes the data gathered from existing EHRs, bed management, case management systems and external sources (such as weather) to quickly and easily see the potential impact of scheduling, staffing, and case mix changes. It empowers hospital leaders to develop optimized block and OR schedules that are easily managed and automates the staff planning and assignment process, all the while complementing traditional time and attendance systems.

At a time when hospitals cannot afford to mismanage valuable resources, analytics prevent costly trial and error and help hospitals overcome operational shortcomings in their perioperative suite. By testing “what if” scenarios, facilities can predict and manage the impact of operational changes for little expense or exposure.

Analytics software programs demonstrate measureable impact in OR operations. Impressively, analytics enabled a nonprofit medical center in Boston to increase its annual OR volume by three percent and improve utilization by more than five percent, resulting in an annual revenue increase of more than $3 million. And in New Jersey, a regional medical center used analytics to improve its OR utilization to 71 percent and improve labor productivity by 10 percent.

Understanding enterprise-wide impact

Hospitals must plan for downstream impact as they strategically adjust volumes in the OR, or any other admission source. The volume changes have an impact on inpatient capacity and patient flow across a hospital. Powerful analytics programs can greatly enhance existing capacity planning and patient flow capabilities to ensure that hospitals offer superior access to care through the emergency department, OR and other sources within the community. This not only helps reduce costs in providing care, but also serves as one of the primary vehicles to execute revenue strategies.

Predictive analytics provide hospitals with advance forecasting capabilities. By combining historical demand patterns, upcoming surgical schedules with additional data sources and data science, allowing hospitals to predict capacity and anticipate and prepare for bottlenecks days in advance. Critical access and patient flow decisions, such as filling in unused OR time, adjusting staffing plans, identifying and prioritizing discharges, redirecting external transfers, and opening flex units, can be made proactively. The holistic, analytics approach prevents gridlock, improves volume and enhances the patient’s journey through the facility.

Hospitals that use analytics to optimize their operations deliver better margins and achieve their mission of providing outstanding care. Revenue climbs, costs decrease, and efficiency improves throughout the hospital and across the health system as a whole. That’s healthy growth.

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