New Patient Flow Strategies? What to Keep in Mind for Implementation

Nursing Team

Improving the patient flow process in your emergency department relies heavily on not only what strategies and solutions you choose to implement but also how you decide to implement them.

A strong correlation exists between efficacy and execution. A detailed patient flow implementation plan acknowledges potential challenges and barriers, includes a detailed timeline and offers flexibility. By having one in place, you’ll increase your odds of success.

While your new patient flow process — and the strategies and solutions you’ve decided upon to create it — may seem foolproof on paper, below are  a few things you should consider before, during and following implementation.

Start slow. 

Improving patient flow isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Expect to tweak your plan and strategy during the implementation process and adjust accordingly. Also, give a strategy or solution time to take effect. Like the medication prescribed to patients, relief isn’t always immediate. It takes time, and significant impact may arrive only after another component of the plan has been enacted.  

Create a communication plan. 

Ensuring your plan’s success will be a team effort. From hospital administrators to ED support staff, getting their buy-in will be critical and will require effective communication between stakeholders. Before launch, develop a communication plan with your patient flow team that will enable you and your team to troubleshoot any issues or concerns as they arise and to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Whether you schedule a daily in-person huddle, weekly Skype session, conference call, email thread or group chat, make sure the lines of communication are open and that all of your team members have an opportunity to share their voice as you implement your plan.   

Be realistic. 

This may be the most important thought to consider when implementing new patient flow strategies. To effect change in the ED, you have to take into account what your resources are and how they will determine your results.

For example:

  • Figure out early on whether or not you have the budget to implement new strategies. You must also determine if the results of implementation will provide a positive return on investment for both your bottom line and the quality of care your ED delivers to patients.
  • Consider personnel resources. If your patient flow plan consists of developing or adding a new position — think patient flow navigator — do you have the money to make it happen? If not, will you be able to secure more funds? How long will it take? Also, determine whether or not your plan will require staff to learn new skills.     

Take time to reflect. 

When you carefully consider each component or strategy you plan to implement it will prepare you for any hiccups along the way. It can give you time to create buy-in among your teammates and opens the lines of communication between one another. Devoting ample time for pre-launch review and dialogue among staff will make improving patient flow that much easier.

What else should one consider when working to improve patient flow within the emergency department? Share your comments below or feel free to drop me a line with your experience.


SOURCE: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: “Improving Patient Flow and Reducing Emergency Department Crowding: A Guide for Hospitals.”