By Ashley Joseph, senior director of client services, Infusion at LeanTaaS.
Each new year brings about the opportunity to reflect, learn and welcome positive change in our personal lives. This ideology is also embraced by the healthcare industry, as we’re constantly looking to improve workflows and incorporate new technology to boost patient care and operational efficiency.
To say the healthcare industry has learned a lot from 2020 would be a drastic understatement. As we enter 2021, we have an opportunity to make improvements to the vulnerabilities exposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Infusion centers (and their patients) were forced to get creative “on the fly” in 2020. With the new year officially here, we expect to see more change and creativity from infusion centers around the country, in response to yet more new challenges.
Infusion centers may expand their scope
In the past, infusion centers have had occasional times when a chair or two was used for non-oncology treatments. Now, we’re seeing these various treatments pop up in centers more frequently, especially some COVID-19 treatments like monoclonal antibody infusions used to treat coronavirus patients. This not only increases the scarcity of chair resources, but also creates issues around trying to treat COVID-19 patients in the same vicinity as severely immunocompromised patients.
Process bottlenecks may come from new sources
Infusion chairs have traditionally been the limiting factor in how many patients can be treated per day. Today, though, nursing shortages are just as likely to be the limiting asset. These shortages are caused by unexpected, COVID-induced early retirements, quarantines required due to COVID-19 exposure, and the fact that infusion nurses are highly skilled – and thus among those who can easily provide support in inpatient units when those units experience sudden or unexpected nursing shortages.
Some centers have been forced to create/section off infusion areas for cancer patients who have also tested positive for COVID-19. Every time that the overall pool of available infusion chairs needs to be segmented such that any patient can’t go into any chair, efficiency in the center overall will decline.