How Can We Better Prepare for the Winter Crisis?

Cambio UK Prepares Trusts for Potential Winter Wave with Digital Patient Flow Management Solution

‘Freedom Day’ on July 19th was one of reprieve and relief for many patients and their families. For the healthcare industry, Freedom Day marked a critical moment for determining how well public services dealt with the health backlog; and what challenges will need to be addressed to amend it come Winter. 

Despite falling COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions and the NHS backlog continue to rise. To date, the Secretary of Health estimates that the backlog has surpassed roughly 13 Million postponed treatments. Many of these include elective surgeries and meeting the needs of ageing and vulnerable populations, patients affected by sedentary lifestyles and an overall rise of mortality rates. 

The result of this crisis has added drastically to the health backlog, one that organisations worldwide are struggling to ameliorate. In the United Kingdom alone, the NHS faces a backlog surpassing the millions, which will cost the UK Government £27 Billion to amend, according to a report from The Health Foundation

Given the level of investment required to reverse the challenges imposed by the pandemic, it is clear that healthcare must consider how it can leverage existing resources to meet future needs. In truth, public health needs to lean on current digital transformation to survive the coming winter months. 

By using platforms like Cambio PFM, Trusts will ensure that patients throughout the Winter season will not experience the queues, delayed service and poor outcomes of last year. In a matter of moments, Cambio PFM can be implemented into Trusts’ infrastructures, giving them immediate support ahead of any pending Winter crisis. 

Patient Flow Management in Winter Months 

Every year, the Winter season presents added strain to the NHS. The pandemic winters have been no exception. 

In these months, colder temperatures and heightened rates of COVID-19 transmissions, compounded by the seasonal surge of non-COVID admissions, posed additional pressures to the NHS. According to NHS published statistics, waiting times for urgent care pathways in January 2021 ‘worsened’ compared to the eight months prior. 

In addition, bed occupancy rates in the same period rose by 138% on average across the United Kingdom:

“Due to increased demand for critical care beds, additional beds have been opened in the winter of 2020/2021/ Relative to the number of available critical care beds […] 138% of beds were occupied” 

At this time of year, consistent patient flow issues, combined with a high level of delayed discharges and high bed occupancy, impede Trusts from efficiently managing patient flow. Manual bed management approaches, the norm for some Trusts across the country, proved inadequate in meeting the needs of unprecedented times. 

Currently, this approach involves teams manually making update calls across different care pathways, holding frequent meetings and physically running from ward to ward to check on bed status. The result of this practice has visibly led to inefficient capacity monitoring, cancellations of elective surgery, delayed discharge, poor infection control and increased mortality. Without clear clinical pathways, extended issues also arise around care in the community, increasing staff burnout rates and sickness due to raised stress levels. 

Adapting Patient Flow Management through Past Learnings

With the vast backlog of elective activity to catch up on, combined with NHS staff shortages and burnout, it is unlikely that this pressure will abate despite current warmer temperatures. Although the summer has provided some respite for a slowly recovering health system, health executives must not slack in preparing thoroughly for the months to come. 

To address both the health backlog and incoming Winter demands on health, Trusts need to rethink how they approach patient flow. Health executives will need to rely on agile, integrative and digital solutions to ensure that capacity is better matched to serve future demands. 

Specifically, they will need to more efficiently admit, treat, and discharge more vulnerable patients in the Winter months. Nominally, Trusts will need to delegate enough resources to meet the needs of elderly patients and those suffering from chronic respiratory conditions, many of whom require heightened levels of care and ongoing community-based support. 

Cambio PFM provides a real-time solution for Winter capacity and demand issues by automating the bed management process. By working closely with teams and integrated PAS and EPR systems, Cambio PFM simplifies complex clinical systems by offering heightened data visibility. 

As a bespoke patient flow solution, Cambio PFM projects data from various wards onto a universal platform, giving nurses and care staff who treat patients, the opportunity to align services and to improve health outcomes ultimately. Designed for the singular purpose of improving patient flow, Cambio PFM caters to the day-to-day needs of operating care teams and the patients they treat. 

Looking Forward

The summer heatwave may still be with us, but time for Winter preparation must start now. 

As some of the pressures associated with COVID-19 start to ease, thoughts will inevitably turn to recovery and safeguarding health resources for the next few months. This year’s preparation for the Winter months will have a different feel, as recovery takes place against a backdrop of COVID-19 and the need to conform to standards set out by the recent Clinical Review of Standards (CRS). 

Digital patient flow systems, like Cambio PFM, could make a real difference to how Trusts manage winter pressures. From managing occupancy, discharge and reducing readmission rates, Cambio PFM will allow health executives to deploy solutions needed in the colder months. 

By tracking patients from admission to discharge, Cambio PFM ensures that empty beds are available for vulnerable patients at any given time. In allowing health teams to take advantage of small and easily integrated efficiencies, Cambio PFM ensures that patients and care staff are protected throughout the entire health journey. 

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