As hospital and health system leaders increasingly face natural disasters and emergency events, they have found value in using real-time throughput technology to manage patient flow, and to give them bird’s-eye views of operational logistics both on and off their campuses. When used in conjunction with their electronic medical record software, these tools can help hospital leaders respond nimbly to unprecedented emergencies.

Such software offers a dashboard for real-time situational awareness across the care continuum, giving hospital and system leaders a picture of what’s happening in their facilities, communities and in post-acute care areas. When disaster strikes, leaders can move to a streamlined version of the dashboard to display capacity across all physical locations, enabling leaders to reconfigure, for example, cafeterias into wards and break rooms into meeting areas. Later, staff can use the program to repatriate patients and their families and to tap into its analytics to improve future response efforts.

Melanie Morris, senior director of transfer and communications at Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Va., says that such software has been valuable to her team as it prepares for future emergencies.

“As soon as a physician writes a discharge order, we know immediately [how to prioritize patient turnover],” Morris said. “Should we have to rapidly [discharge] patients and make room for a surge, I can see just by glancing at our board how many patients already have discharge orders written, and those will be the first to leave the hospital.”

Carilion uses TeleTracking, a Pittsburgh-based company with more than 1,000 hospital clients across the United States and beyond. 

Morris says the tool helps her manage capacity on a daily basis, in addition to disaster situations. Morris has used the software for the better part of a decade in her role at the helm of the health system’s command center. She says that it keeps “the clinicians at the bedside,” freeing them up to attend to patients while her team keeps an eye on managing patient turnover.

“We all need the clinicians at the bedside taking care of the patients,” Morris said. “Let everyone do their area of specialty. I need a nurse and a doctor [with their] hands on the patient, rounding. They shouldn’t be having to worry about the logistics. Let us.”

Command centers also are beneficial for staff of recently-merged hospitals as they liaise across sites and work to maintain cohesive operations, according to TeleTracking President Chris Johnson. 

“People are looking for ways to manage their shared-savings programs better — how they can reduce their costs and achieve those synergies,” Johnson said.

This is something EMRs have been tasked with, but don’t always deliver on, he said.

“EMRs have historically been challenging from a data sharing and integration [standpoint], certainly between each other,” Johnson said. “And if you have somebody that has multiple EMRs, not one of those systems can actually provide enterprisewide visibility.”

Morris agrees. 

“The EMRs are not quite there yet,” she said. “The EMRs do a great job of what they’re intended to do, which is to [ingest] clinical information. Teletracking is best in class when it comes to the logistics side of it, the throughput side of it. And we do constantly look at that, because if one day they’re not the best in class, we’ll reevaluate using them.”

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