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Putting together the patient flow jigsaw

There are numerous challenges facing any chief operating officer, but keeping on top of patient flow must be one of the most difficult. Not only does a COO need to know what is happening now, they have to know how to react when something happens that might disrupt patient flow.

The COO needs to be able to see at a glance what is happening in the Trust in real-time. That means having the intelligence at their fingertips to know how many attendances there have been so far in the day, what the rest of the day will look like and how this compares with other days in the week and with other weeks in the year.

However, most COOs will only be able to get some of this information if they are on site. They may have to visit the A&E department or manage to get hold of an out of date SITREP that has been emailed out across the Trust. The long and short of it is they can’t get the information they need without being logged on somewhere, or without speaking to people.

So having an app that allows a COO to see at a glance the intelligence they need to judge the current state of play from anywhere they choose, even from a hand held device, is a big leap forwards. It means being able to assess the safety level and stability of the service being provided at any given time of day. More importantly it means the COO can be proactive than reacting to old data and information that eventually finds its way across the system.

The next step is being able to understand what is going to happen tomorrow, the coming weekend, or in a month’s time or in six months’ time taking into account holidays and bank holiday periods. Every COO knows that there are activity pinch points but what exactly are they? When are they? What will be the impact on the organisation?

The senior management team needs information to be the driver for the decisions they make. This allows the team to prepare for surges in activity, adjust staffing portfolio and resource as required. It also allows a COO to be able to determine how many beds are needed on any given day, it allows for planned and phased opening and closing of beds with appropriate resource and staffing to be established. The COO can then maintain appropriate pressure into the system to drive performance and sustain patient flow at its optimum level without detrimental impact on the quality of care provided to patients.

It is these two vital sources of information that will allow every COO to deliver a quality and timely service in a planned way within an acute hospital environment.

Ben Rosling
Director of Transformation