Patient flow is an urgent, costly challenge that is addressed most effectively with an enterprise tracking board.

Take a moment to think about the wonders of the football scoreboard. With a quick glance, anyone familiar with the game's fundamentals can come in during the third quarter and instantly be on the same page as everyone else in the stadium. Now imagine if each time someone completed a first down or kicked a field goal, everyone in the stadium had to be called or paged. Sounds ridiculous — yet that's how most hospitals are run today.

In healthcare, the football scoreboard's equivalent is the enterprise tracking board. Instead of a tracking board for each department, this emerging technology provides patient visibility across the hospital or a multi-hospital enterprise. The technology uses visual controls to broadcast real-time, at-a-glance information about patient status against the hospital's floor plan. Information aggregated from clinical, ADT, housekeeping, transport, location and other systems is displayed on large, electronic whiteboards throughout the hospital.

An enterprise tracking board will help you:

  • Drive organizational alignment by putting everyone on the same page
  • Ensure process compliance by increasing transparency and accountability
  • Promote proactive behavior by enabling people to anticipate what they need to do next

Southlake Regional Medical Centre in Newmarket, Ontario, is doing this today. The regionally designated 400-bed hospital installed an enterprise tracking board to combat increasing patient volume and is now able to better manager patient flow resulting in significant quality and efficiency improvements. Read more about Southlake Regional and the awards this organization has won for improvements in patient care outcomes.

The solid ROI provided by uncovering hidden beds and uncorking bottlenecks is just the beginning. Imagine how you could enhance revenue, care continuity and patient satisfaction by alerting central supply, financial counselors, outpatient treatment centers and other stakeholders of all pending discharges.

Knowing the “score” every minute for every patient across your enterprise gives your organization the chance not only to achieve its clinical and patient flow “goals” but to change the game entirely.

How to Convince Everyone in Your Organization

An enterprise tracking board addresses organizational challenges from multiple perspectives -- the C-Suite, chief nursing officer (CNO) and chief information officer (CIO).

The CEO, COO and CFO's Perspective

When deciding whether to approve a new technology investment, CEOs, COOs and CFOs want solutions to the issues that keep them up at night, such as patient flow. The plight of hospitals experiencing ED overcrowding has been making headlines for years, but the real cause of ED challenges is usually “downstream” capacity issues in areas such as the ICU and surgery. Giving the people who make care decisions visibility into what's going on in the ED as well as the rest of the hospital is critical to understanding where bottlenecks occur and fixing them. An enterprise tracking board also helps prevent diversions by speeding bed turnarounds by up to 20 minutes so patients can be placed in the right bed more quickly.

The CNO's Perspective

CNOs want their managers to be able to walk onto a unit and immediately know what's happening, where any special patient populations are and who might need help. Amidst an ongoing nursing shortage and aging workforce, they also want to minimize agency costs by keeping frontline nurses happy. An enterprise tracking board helps make nurses' lives easier by saving them one hour per shift per day, by eliminating up to 7-10 phone calls and 3-4 wasted logins. Instead, nurses can instantly see:

  • Where their patients are and how long they've been there
  • Whether they have any new orders or results
  • Whether a patient is being transferred off the unit
  • Whether they are getting any new patients that shift

While visibility doesn't replace interdepartmental communication, it reduces many of the inefficiencies that can mark the difference between a smooth shift and a hectic one.

The CIO's Perspective

CIOs are under constant pressure to maximize adoption of existing technology and ensure that incremental investments provide a quantifiable ROI and leverage what is already in place.

An enterprise tracking board installs in less than 100 days can typically return a full ROI in less than 2 years based on improving patient flow, staff productivity and care quality.

By broadcasting information from source systems for everyone to see and use, it leverages the value of those systems and increases the accuracy of the information they contain because it is visible to all staff to question.

This blog post originally published on the Better Health 2020 blog in November 2014.

Billie Whitehurst

About the author

Billie Whitehurst, M.S., R.N., is vice president of Capacity Management for McKesson Connected Care and Analytics, where she leads the company's efforts to offer solutions that help health organizations achieve sustainable operating improvements by enabling a proactive approach to workforce optimization, capacity and throughput. Whitehurst has more than 15 years' experience leading clinical IT teams serving acute and homecare markets. Whitehurst has a master's degree in health care administration and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Colorado. She is board certified in nursing informatics from the American Nurses Association.