Using Patient Flow to Examine Hospital Operations

Using Patient Flow to Examine Hospital Operations

Renata Konrad (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA), Beste Kucukyazici (Zaragoza Logistics Center, Spain) and Mark Lawley (Purdue University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-872-9.ch019


Adopting an admission-to-discharge patient flow perspective has the potential to improve hospital operations. Flow paths provide insight regarding patient care needs, support resource allocation and capacity planning decisions, and improve the operational performance of the hospitals. Studying patient flow through systems engineering tools and applications can help decision makers assess and improve care delivery. This chapter presents current research and techniques used to describe, measure, and model inpatient flow. We formally define patient flow from an operational standpoint and discuss why it is crucial for operational decisions. Systems engineering techniques, which describe and analyze inpatient flow, are introduced. The chapter concludes with a discussion of emerging approaches to capture patient flow.
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Patient Flow

Patient flow can be described from two perspectives, the clinical and the operational. (Côté, 2000; Marshall et al., 2005) From a clinical point of view, patient flow represents the progression of a patient’s health status. Accordingly, understanding patient flow in a clinical sense offers providers, patients, and hospital administration insight about care needs associated with disease progression or recovery status. (Côté, 2000) On the other hand, from an operational point of view, patient flow can be thought of as the movement of patients through a set of events or locations in a health care facility. (Côté, 2000) In the context of this chapter, we focus on patient flow from the operational perspective. This section formally defines patient flow and illustrates why it is important to use this approach when performing operational analysis.

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