From the November 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Dr. Rocco Orlando III
One of the biggest trends in U.S. health care is consolidation.
Building integrated networks has allowed many health care organizations to provide more comprehensive services to their communities. But as systems expand, growth can create new complexities.
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Radiology professionals understand this issue well. As providers consolidate, imaging resources expand. However, that does not always lead to parallel improvements in referral management, patient wait times and physician access to images and reports.
My colleagues and I have given a lot of thought to the challenges and opportunities of consolidation. Over the last 10 years, Hartford HealthCare has grown to include five acute care hospitals (and a continuum of non-acute organizations) serving 2 million people in Connecticut.
Our network has improved the community’s access to top-level tertiary and quaternary care. However, the network sometimes has been the victim of its own success.
On one hand, Hartford Hospital — our academic medical center — was often at capacity, particularly in the neurosciences ICU. On the other hand, we had excess capacity in our community hospitals. This is despite the fact that several of our community facilities provide very high-end critical care services.
We knew that better patient flow was the answer, but simply focusing on our academic medical center wasn’t enough. We needed to optimize patient logistics across our entire health network.
In 2016, we began working on several care-logistics strategies — all with the goal of getting the right patients to the right location promptly, so we could provide them with the highest quality care as close to home as possible. To date, we have achieved significant progress by focusing on three key initiatives in collaboration with GE Healthcare.
A systemwide ‘command center’ for patient logistics
In September, Hartford HealthCare launched the Care Logistics Center, a central unit that consolidates the patient logistics functions of all five of our acute care hospitals. Designed and implemented with the help of GE Healthcare Partners, the unit serves as a command center for managing patient flow and resource utilization across our entire network.
The Care Logistics Center has significantly improved the way we move patients throughout our system. One key to its effectiveness is colocation. Previously, it was difficult for logistics staff at different hospitals to coordinate their efforts. Now, a single team of logistics managers literally sit elbow to elbow in the Care Logistics Center. That facilitates real-time communication, allowing staff to make quick and appropriate patient movement decisions. Only Hartford Hospital had dedicated logistics staff in the past. Bringing all logistics functions into one unit has allowed us to identify inefficiencies and create standardized processes.