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Improving efficiency in hospitals through right patient flow

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Long queues and huge waiting time period in hospitals have become so common that the doctors and patients assume that waiting is an inescapable but an unfortunate part of the process. For a long time, the hospitals have been trying to solve this problem through addition of resources and thought it to be the solution for the problem but addition of large resources only creates an inefficiency in the system. Many hospitals don’t realize that the solution for this problem lies in the patient flow and a timely and smooth flow of patients through hospital wards can help the hospitals in saving time and resources.

How to guarantee a smooth and timely flow of patients?

In a healthcare organization, patient flow is referred to a process through which patients are movedacross different locations in the hospitals and how they are served at multiple stages of care. Effective patient flow in hospitals will result in a lesser waiting time period at the registration counter, doctor’s consultation, diagnostic tests, surgical procedure, ward admission and discharge. Efficiency in patient flow also has a large impact in the operational efficiency of the hospital.
Few measures which can be adopted by the Hospitals in ensuring the right patient flow are as follows:
  •      Observe the movement pattern and the distance traveled by the Hospital staffs and the patients, investigate  the time taken to move staffs, resources and supplies within the hospital.

  •       A separate corridor for patients and staffs to avoid overcrowding, delay and confusion in the hospital’s  corridors.

  •       Analyze the interdepartmental activities and movements on each floor.

  •       Services and resources can be centralized to reduce the total distance travelled and minimize the number of trips.
Efficient patient flow can be achieved through the right spatial design in the hospital. The distances and the movement taken by the patients and the hospital staffs are largely affected by the physical layout and design of the hospital’s infrastructure. An incorrect spatial design can affect the patient’s movement around the hospital which will result in patients’ dissatisfaction towards the hospital. Therefore, it is necessary to control and minimize the patients’ movements within the hospital premises and ensure less time in finding and locating various departments in the hospital from the registration up till discharge.

A major important factor for improving patient flow lies in the physical accessibility, it is necessary for the hospital to consider the changes in movements and direction in important places like, from the entrance to the registration, etc. It is greatly important that the reception is placed closely to the main entrance so that the visitors will directly go to the reception upon their arrival at hospital. A special facility should also be made at the reception area to identify cases of urgent nature which requires speedy treatment.  Another important factor for improving patient flow lies in the visibility of boards and signage across the hospital. The visitors in the hospital must be able to view all the boards and signage for them to understand as to where they should go to. Therefore, the two above factors has a large impact on the journey of the patient’s as well as the hospital staffs. Hence, the hospital can increase its operational efficiency through a proper patient flow which involves a right design that incorporates the individuals, the process and the environment. 

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