Using Voice to Improve Hospital Patient Flow

Feb 5, 2020 8:00:00 AM / by Jag Padala, Chief Technology Officer

What if voice technology could smooth out patient flow in your hospital? The benefit would be noteworthy especially given that hospitals throughout the US face an ironic challenge.

Two Challenges Affect OR and ED Orchestration

Hospitals throughout the US are faced with an ironic challenge.

Occupancy in the in-patient wards of larger hospitals is around 65%. The suite utilization in the OR is also a prime concern for most OR directors as expensive OR resources are not typically utilized to the maximum. However, wait times at most hospitals are more than what patients and hospital management would like them to be.

This is not an easy problem to solve as hospitals don't control a number of the factors that create this imbalance.

ER visits are by nature unscheduled and the load on the ER varies day by day. The reimbursement systems for most hospitals favor large surgical interventions which have the most revenue generation potential. Since these are performed by a handful of surgeons, traffic going into the in-patient recovery rooms is skewed towards the days on which these surgeries are scheduled.

>> See Patient Flow and Smart Data: Ideal Together

Although these are not trivial problems to solve, improving efficiencies within the hospital can definitely alleviate the problems. Availability of tools that can understand the traffic that is coming in and going out of hospitals can also be a tremendous asset.

How to Improve Hospital Patient Flow? Try Voice!

There are two aspects to these possible solutions.

The first is the ability to record data as close to real-time as possible.

The second is creating systems that can understand the bigger picture and accurately and easily convey it to hospital management.

1. Recording Patient Data in Real-Time

The first problem of recording patient location and status has traditionally been a huge challenge. Manually entered data has a tendency to be stale and inaccurate. Busy nurses typically wait a few minutes to enter data or sometimes collect data from a few patient visits and enter it as a batch.

RTLS Only Senses Location

The use of RTLS has been one of the proposed solutions. Implementing RTLS hardware and the subsequent upkeep is nontrivial and busy nurses are now forced to follow additional steps in the flow such as putting on and cutting off RTLS tags.

As RTLS technology improves, these steps may become more seamless where the patient identity band itself may have the necessary tracking hardware so it becomes part of the existing flow. However, RTLS can only sense location and other important signals such as surgery cut and surgery close need to be recorded in real time so they can be effectively used to orchestrate flow through the OR.

Interested in Smoothing Out Patient Flow in Your Hospital with Voice?

Enter Voice Recognition Systems

Alexa and other voice recognition systems may come into play and help solve some of these problems. For example, with Alexa, nurses can record events hands free, and if the feedback and ease of use is designed well, it could almost function like a digital assistant. So instead of adding cumbersome steps to the flow, the digital assistant actually helps nurses and makes these tasks a bit easier. The interaction becomes non-intrusive and intuitive.

>> See If you want to know something just ask

The possibility of chatbots are huge within the OR. For example, the chatbot can be used to inform Pre-Op that the surgeon is almost done and the flip room they need to arrange for the next surgery for the surgeon needs to be prepped up in the next 10-15 minutes. The chatbot could also tell the nurse where the nearest IV pump is. 

Using these data collection points, signals can be sent to other departments. For example, live charts could be updated within the in-patient control room to indicate that a patient will be moved into post op within the next 15 minutes. These kinds of advance signals can give the in-patient nurse management a precious extra few minutes of a heads up, a signal that can help them be better prepared and thus reduce some of their stress levels.

>> See What Is Operating Room Orchestration?

2. Understanding Overall Hospital Patient Flow

The second component to this solution is a system that understands the overall flow.

If a system can recognize that there are more than an average number of surgeries scheduled for Monday afternoon, and also that -- since this is flu season -- there would be a more than average number of visits to the ER, the projections can be added up to determine how many in-patient beds would be needed throughout the day.

As the events of the day unfold, these projections can be updated on a hourly or some other periodic basis.

If this is known a few days in advance, in-patient nurse leadership could staff accordingly and also make sure any possible discharges are safely done prior to Monday. The projections could also indicate the in-patient inflow by the types of rooms and beds that may be needed.

>> See Experience Emergency Room Orchestration

Having access to these dashboards could be a real asset to the nursing staff. Furthermore, these systems can again function as a digital assistant to the nurses.

3. Appealing to the Next Nursing Generation 

An added benefit is the role voice technology can play in recruiting and retaining technology-savvy nursing talent. 

Millennials, for example, naturally gravitate toward hands-free technology solutions. They use voice as part of their day-to-day lives and extending that to the workplace makes sense.

As one hospital client explained, 

"...The average age of the OR nurse is 55 and most hospitals are trying to hire younger staff but it has been a challenge. Technology could be an interesting aspect in the recruitment process."

Interested in Smoothing Out Patient Flow in Your Hospital with Voice?

Are you ready to consider using voice to orchestrate excellence in your healthcare facility?

TAGNOS has been working on solutions that solve both the data capture and visibility/orchestration issues described above. Please reach out to us at info@tagnos.com for more information.

Thanks for reading.

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About TAGNOS

TAGNOS is the future of clinical automation software solutions with Artificial Intelligence. TAGNOS is the only platform offering predictive analytics utilizing machine learning and RTLS. This groundbreaking platform leverages historical patient data continuously and adjusts operational intelligence to provide sustainable improvement to both the patient experience and metrics.

TAGNOS provides clinical systems integration, customizable reporting, dashboards, alerts, critical communication with staff and family to improve turnaround times. TAGNOS supports patient flow, workflow orchestration, and asset management. 

In the course of 13 months, hospitals see a 12.7% reduction in its overall cycle time - saving an average of 40 minutes from each case and over $1.6M per year - more than 11x the typical investment.