How Can Digitising Patient Flow Solve the A&E Crisis?

Emergency Departments Across the UK Need Digital Tools to Amend Capacity Overflow.

Article first published on Cambio’s LinkedIn site on the 15th April

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for healthcare providers to implement digital patient flow solutions.

Indeed, the ongoing A&E crisis is testament to their increasing necessity. The unprecedented overcrowding, long waiting times and lack of resources in A&E revealed the absence of digital infrastructure that could support capacity and demand issues.

Digital offerings such as Cambio Healthcare Systems (Cambio) Patient Flow Manager (PFM) have significantly helped institutions to adapt to an uncertain health landscape. Thanks to digitised patient flow solutions, increased visibility regarding granular patient and business intelligence data have overcome challenges like bed shortages in ICU and discharge times.

Platforms like Cambio PFM have been instrumental in redressing the significant economic and social disruption within the UK’s public health system. By granting health providers with a view of patient flow in real-time, Cambio PFM now optimises decision-making and positive patient outcomes.

A Grave Context

Since the beginning of the global health crisis, unsurpassable pressure has placed severe demands on healthcare facilities across the world. Health providers, practitioners and policy makers have learned to operate within a ‘new normal’ in carefully balancing their response to the pandemic. Several measures, such as the ‘Track and Trace’ system, were put in place and experienced various levels of success.

In the United Kingdom, the timing and prevalence of COVID-19 surges across different geographies varied. As a result, emergency departments faced major logistical and operational challenges. Some of these included: slow departmental reconfiguration to cope with surges, the development of novel clinical pathways for emerging conditions, poor PPE and resource allocation, confusing governance and communication. With limited visibility of over capacity, some emergency departments suffered from unavailable bed space, insufficient space in waiting rooms to promote social distancing, as well as a lack of separated space for suspected COVID-19 patients.

Similarly, the lack of digital tools that could provide real-time information resulted in poor management of attendance number. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), this ‘made optimising the limited available physical space challenging’ for patients and practitioners alike. The BMJ study surveyed several emergency departments across the United Kingdom regarding the approaches they used to mitigate pandemic challenges. Many emergency departments reported impromptu measures, including:

‘…using perspex screens to rapidly and flexibly separate areas such as waiting rooms, repurposing fire exits as ambulance entrances and designing clinical pathways to facilitate AGP delivery outside of the ED where feasible’

The study observes that the ensured continuity of vital services such as acute care and A&E was, at times, indeterminate. In spite of the impromptu innovations on-hand staff created in emergency departments, it became clear that rapid change was needed to sustain baseline functionality. Specifically, more intelligent solutions for allocating resources and space for A&E patients became an imperative for health services across the UK.

Cambio UK’s PFM: A Sustainable Solution

Although the UK is certainly on the road to recovery, the A&E crisis is still at large.

To ensure that emergency departments can maintain functionality, more sustainable and long-term measures need to be put in place. To prevent future regression, health institutions need to utilise COVID-19-borne processes, particularly those concerning digitised patient flow solutions.

A plethora of operational approaches have been tried and tested to ameliorate the A&E crisis. A method that has tangibly helped health institutions to persevere is data-driven patient management: platforms that can be easily integrated and offer interoperability between clinicians, patients and business intelligence. Now available in the health domain, tools like Cambio  PFM helps providers to optimise their service and care offering. By tracking the digital journey of patients throughout the entire hospital system, Cambio PFM bolsters care pathways for both patients and hospital staff.

Specifically, Cambio PFM allows health staff to collaborate and align necessary resources to support better decision making. The platform and digital whiteboards optimise communication across entire hospital ecosystems by providing and analysing key patient data points. In creating a data-driven overview that uses granular pieces of information, Cambio PFM helps health practitioners optimise their demand forecasting, capacity planning and resource allocation.

Within an A&E setting, using the intelligence and data capacity from Cambio PFM provides an accurate and necessary reporting of real-time circumstances. Its ability to mitigate delayed transfers and inefficiencies can allow for emergency departments to maximise their use of bed space. Further, Cambio PFM can complement existing systems and therefore promote improvements in patient flow with ease. Within a setting that experiences significant pressure, Cambio PFM can help emergency departments to promote earlier discharge and increased patient satisfaction.

A&E Patient Flow Beyond the Pandemic

One of the key learnings that public health has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of purpose-built infrastructures to not only contain infection but also facilitate more efficient patient flow.

It is now clear that public health has a need for dedicated digital resources that can inhibit transmission and protect patients throughout their hospital journey. In A&E and intensive wards, patient flow tools like Cambio PFM proved invaluable in ensuring that they were aptly equipped with the resources to cater for all patient types. Cambio PFM’s ability to analyse and recommend efficiencies allowed for patients to enter and exit the hospital environment without friction. As we plan for the ‘next normal’, health providers will need to prepare best practices that reflect pandemic learnings. In a bid to realise future efficiencies, digitised patient flow tools like Cambio PFM will surely be integral for long-term success.

Above all, health institutions will need to implement solutions that are designed with patients in mind. By integrating digital infrastructures that support more efficient patient flow, health systems will inevitably see positive care outcomes and delivery satisfaction.

Get in touch with the Cambio Healthcare Systems UK team today, to help your teams gain greater insights throughout the entire patient journey.