Improving Patient Flow

Dr. Stewart Kennedy, COVID-19 Incident Manager and Vice President, Regional Programs, Clinical Supports & Medical Affairs at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Hospitals across Ontario are facing capacity challenges. Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is no exception and has experienced uncharacteristically high patient admissions since the winter of 2017/18.

In the face of ongoing capacity challenges, patient flow is a priority and ensures our patients receive the right care, at the right time, by the right provider. Patient flow refers to the way care is planned and delivered, including medical care, physical resources, and internal systems. In other words, patient flow refers to the care and resources needed to support patients throughout their journey at the Hospital, from admission to discharge and beyond, while maintaining safety, quality and patient satisfaction.

“Patient flow remains as one of the largest issues affecting our Hospital, especially when you factor in that our Emergency Department (ED) is one of the busiest in the province. Of all the people who come to our ED, many need to be admitted,” said Dr. Stewart Kennedy, Executive Vice President of Medical, Academics, and Regional Programs. “Every improvement means that an admitted patient in the ED can move into an inpatient bed sooner.”

A large contributing factor to patient flow and overcapacity is Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients who no longer need to be in a hospital, but still require some form of health care such as rehabilitation, home care, or a long-term care facility. Unfortunately, the needs for such services often exceed what our community agencies can provide.

“By focusing on how and when we admit and discharge patients, and finding efficiencies in processes, we have reduced the amount of time patients spend waiting in the Hospital when they don’t need to. Efficiency means getting patients well sooner,” said Dr. Kennedy.

An example is the introduction of an electronic system used at the bedside by clinicians. The information in the system allows members of the health care team to see and address potential delays in services for patients, such as diagnostic testing or physiotherapy.

Working together with health system partners is also important to ensure that patients receive safe, quality care. “We are all committed to enhancing the coordination of care to support best possible outcomes and experiences for patients and work closely on a daily basis,” explained Kennedy.