A 2016 study of legal claims against hospitalists cited “the speed that diagnostic studies are ordered and performed” as one of the major factors leading to delayed diagnoses to the detriment of the patient’s health.
Not all health systems have realized significant gains in optimizing their length of stay (LOS). Some wonder if a small decrease is worth the effort. Others are concerned reducing their LOS will lead to a higher readmission rate and associated penalties. But experience shows that the benefits of managing LOS are compelling, and the reduction of LOS does not necessarily correlate with an increase in readmissions. Readmissions occur when patients are discharged too early or without a plan supporting their transition from the inpatient setting.
What are the benefits? Reducing LOS drives a significantly positive impact on a health system’s financial performance. For example, if a 300-bed hospital with an average LOS of 4.5 days was able to reduce their LOS to 4.2 days they could treat over 1,700 more patients each year. This would mean millions of dollars in additional income from the same fixed capacity.
Reducing LOS also diminishes the incidence of hospital-acquired conditions and raises employee satisfaction while boosting patient engagement. The challenge for health systems is accomplishing this goal takes planning, lean thinking, and careful execution. It also requires collaboration across the organization.
Ten Tips for Optimizing LOS:
1. Define your discharge planning process by anticipating the care a patient will need at discharge and understanding the support that they have available.
2. Track each patient's progression toward discharge and ensure the entire team is on the same page.
3. Have executive support and engagement to sponsor necessary organizational or process changes.
4. Prioritize labs and diagnostics for patients scheduled to discharge.
5. Reduce delays in admission from the ER to make sure patients are receiving appropriate care as soon as possible.
6. Assess your current discharge practices to work effectively with individual schedules and available resources.
7. Reduce patient wait time between care activities as most inpatients spend too much time waiting for care.
8. Schedule procedures on an outpatient basis if they can wait until after discharge.
9. Engage and educate physicians on the importance of managing length of stay.
10. Know your barriers to discharge. Is it finding post-acute beds or delays in processing discharge orders?
Have you tried these tips and still not able to reach your goal for LOS? To learn how Care Logistics can help you achieve dramatic results for LOS and other key metrics contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-930-0870.
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