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GE Healthcare Survey Reveals Many Healthcare Organizations Not Prepared For Capacity Management Challenges

GE Healthcare Performance Solutions, a unit of General Electric Corp. (NYSE: GE), today announced the results of a new survey that shows U.S. healthcare organizations may not be prepared to tackle the serious capacity and patient flow challenges ahead. The new operational demands are expected as a result of healthcare reform, regulatory changes and the shift toward accountable care.

A primary cause may be the lack of data, tools, and an integrated approach to tracking utilization across the hospital that would enable leaders at these organizations to develop capacity management strategies at the enterprise level.

Karen Myers, chief nursing officer of St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston explains that placing a greater emphasis on data has helped St. Luke’s to deliver higher quality care more efficiently. “To get the real picture of capacity needs, healthcare organizations need to move from a qualitative approach to a quantitative one that leverages real-time, objective data to assess our ability to deliver care efficiently.”

The survey, sponsored by GE Healthcare Performance Solutions, collected responses from members of the HealthLeaders Media Council, a group of 166 top U.S. healthcare executives. It asked respondents to evaluate their organizations’ ability to manage capacity with respect to strategic planning, bed management, discharge processes, OR scheduling, and facility expansion or renovation.

The survey results reveal widespread uncertainty and often conflicting viewpoints, as healthcare organizations work to ensure they use their space and resources efficiently, while ensuring that patients have timely access to beds and required care.

Key highlights:

  • Congested and getting worse: 54 percent of respondents indicated that existing patient flow already feels congested and they expect their organizations to continue to grow. Further, 66 percent cited their discharge processes as inefficient.“No matter how reform plays out in terms of patient volume, the hospitals that thrive will be those that are working today to make the best use of their resources,” says Helen Stewart, managing principal of GE Healthcare Performance Solutions U.S. and Canada. “If your operational cost structure is efficient, you can grow to meet additional demand or shrink your footprint to weather a downturn. The converse is not true. More patients or fewer patients, an inefficient organization is still going to lose money and have patients experience issues. There is no good scenario for inefficiency.”
  • Uncertain about the future : Nearly 60 percent of the healthcare leaders surveyed reported having evaluated and planned for multiple future scenarios, including the impact of healthcare reform, changes in demand, and other external factors. Yet, only 35 percent acknowledge they will be able to predict their capacity needs in short and long term, or that they will be able to match capacity with demand.
  • Confusion in the Operating Room. 62 percent of leaders surveyed said they cannot quantify the impact of surgeries on patient flow through the rest of the hospital on a day-to-day or hour-to-hour basis. These leaders were split evenly (50/50) when asked whether or not their surgeons had trouble finding time on the operating room (OR) schedule. This data suggests that many organizations are not focusing on key high volume and high impact care areas where volume can be controlled, such as elective surgeries in the OR.
  • Technology without process. 57 percent of respondents report having an effective bed management system. However, the same percentage said they lack an effective bed turnover process. This data may suggest the need for an integrated approach to bed management systems, including the use of new software solutions to optimize the process. Stewart explains, “The system can’t just put patients in beds. It has to connect all departments involved in room turnover—transport, housekeeping, patient tracking—and enable them to be more efficient in delivering operational care.”

The survey results highlight the challenges faced by healthcare leaders as they shift from managing capacity discretely at the department level, to creating and managing processes at the enterprise level. It also reveals the challenges that leaders face when creating an efficient operational cost structure that allows for flexibility in a rapidly changing supply-and-demand environment.

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