When you know how many patients are coming down the pipe, you reap more than just shortening their wait time for a bed. You gain the ability to adjust staffing resources to meet demand and drive efficient patient flow. And you make planning collaboration with other departments a routine way of doing business.
On any given day, a hospital knows its quantity of elective surgical patients because they schedule cases at least a week in advance. They can also predict the number of discharges and unscheduled patients even though they may seem random. With less precision, of course, but determining patterns and average ranges is not rocket science.
Arrival patterns seem chaotic because it’s easy to focus on the sheer number of people in the department. Without demand capacity management tools in place, patient flow bottlenecks create non-value added activities. Such caregiver stressors include performing unplanned care tasks in waiting rooms or hallways.
In studying the data from 300+ hospitals across the country, we found that average volumes per day and per week remain stable. Yet, arrival patterns differ by hospital. At one hospital we work with, the weekends are slow but Tuesdays are busy. At others, Mondays bring a higher volume of Emergency Department (ED) patients and the patients are more acute.
Why not knowing how many patients to expect is a problem
Boarding patients in inadequate space jeopardizes patient safety and certainly hampers patient satisfaction. And, delays in initiating treatment may affect clinical outcomes. These impact not only the caregiver’s stress level but can affect testing and other departments.
Finding an available room becomes more difficult when the patient is a behavioral health patient. Caregivers may need to place this patient in a BH safe room, away from stimulation that may escalate anxiety, or as close to the nurse station as possible, depending upon their situation.
Whatever their mental state, when a bedless admitted patient perceives unpreparedness, they may submit lower patient satisfaction scores. It’s hard to feel welcomed when your arrival causes chaos among the staff.
How to determine how many patients to expect
If you work in an inpatient department
Work with Bed Management to better understand the process and flow of patients into the inpatient unit. And work with the ED, most likely your main patient funnel, to understand their patient flow. You can also try the approach we recommend for ED staff, below.
If you are an ED charge nurse or department manager
With three historical data points and the excel template below, you can quickly see how many patients are admitted each day of the week. The template shows the minimum, maximum, and average number to expect. You can enter your hospital’s daily patient volume, daily admitted volume, and dates in the blue cells. Then the template will calculate the minimum, maximum, and average number of admits in the yellow cells. Mr. or Ms. Smarty Pants may challenge you on the legitimacy of your figures. That’s okay. You can quote the template’s Standard Deviation and 90% Confidence range to placate their concerns.