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Are Patients Becoming Victims in Hospital Overcrowding Turf Wars? Experts Ask

PITTSBURGH, July 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Sick people are being used as a "wedge" in a turf war on hospital overcrowding, according to a pair of patient flow experts.

Some hospitals have made the decision to move patients from ER hallways to hallways on unit floors, believing that will force nurses to find beds more quickly, according to experts Anthony Sanzo and Lisa Romano, CEO and Vice President, respectively, at TeleTracking Technologies, leading maker of patient flow automation technology.

The practice, known as "boarding," forces patients, in pain and under stress, to lie in public thruways and use portable toilets behind linen screens. Studies in the United Kingdom have shown the practice may increase the spread of infection.

"Aside from the ethical considerations, there is the practical issue that two wrongs don't make a right," said Lisa Romano, a patient flow expert and vice president of TeleTracking Technologies. "You're simply transferring the problem to someone else and ignoring the underlying issue -- badly managed patient flow."

Solutions do exist.

Overcrowding is no longer viewed as an ER problem, but as a hospital-wide problem caused by time lags in the movement of patients. It is generally attributed to bad communications.

The transfer of patients to unit hallways only addresses the most glaring symptom -- an overcrowded emergency department. Studying and redesigning the flow process and implementing automation technology can free up as much as 20 percent more bed space per day by squeezing wasted time out of the process.

Examples include a technique developed at UPMC Medical Center called "parallel processing," which triggers bed cleaning and transport of a new patient simultaneously upon discharge of the previous in-patient. This saves 30 to 40 minutes of downtime per bed.

Another technique called "Gift Wrapping," created at Seton Healthcare Network in Austin, Texas, established an express admissions team to do most of the admissions process in the ED, cutting admission times from 180 minutes to 30 minutes. Patient flow software, which makes bed and patient status visible to all personnel, enabled both processes to be successful. Patient flow technology, which also displays performance metrics for hospital staff, has cut bed request time from 3-6 hours down to 10 minutes, in some recorded cases.

SOURCE TeleTracking Technologies
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