In the past five months, we as healthcare professionals have all learned a lot about the human spirit’s strength and have been humbled by our ability as an industry to persevere during this crisis. We have also come to realize that COVID-19 is here to stay. This devastating virus is not merely a passing health anomaly that we are working to overcome, but instead a permanent change to which we must adapt.
Hospitals and health systems have adopted new policies and procedures to ensure compliance with COVID treatment and public health safety guidelines. What was once viewed as a temporary solution is now being structured as a routine practice. This new and additional functionality, from extended screenings to intensive cleaning, results in longer episodes of care and requiring more staff time to complete. As we move into the next phase of this pandemic’s evolution, we must begin to recognize and account for these factors when assessing productivity to continue to accurately balance resources with demand.
Some of the areas most impacted by these COVID-related changes, outside of the inpatient nursing units, are the Emergency Room, Admission/Patient Access, Housekeeping, Imaging, and Respiratory services. Here are a few examples of our clients’ experiences and how we are working to address these operational unconventionalities:
- Emergency Room: Triage and treatment times have increased due to COVID rule-outs and cleaning protocols that need to be followed in between patients
- Hour per visit performance standards and other department-specific benchmarks (door to doctor, door to discharge, etc.), have been adjusted to provide the additional staff time now needed to execute these necessary functions. Overall, Best Practice performance has shifted from 2.2 hours per visit to closer to 2.5 hours per visit
- Admissions/Patient Access: Staff is now responsible for screening incoming patients and visitors. Screenings now involve lengthy questionnaires as well as temperature checks among other mandated precautionary measures
- Dedicated staff is being added to the daily schedule to greet patients/visitors and perform these duties as volume mandates. Per the new industry standard practice, the benchmark comparatives for access functions have increased in terms of time per registration to accommodate these added responsibilities. Best Practice performance has now grown from 4-6 minutes per registration to about 8 minutes
- Respiratory: Patient volumes and case severity have increased due to the nature of the COVID-19 virus. Routine treatments are now more intensive and time-consuming while new interventions are being introduced, such as patient proning, which need to be managed carefully by the RTs
- Most organizations, if not previously structured in this way, have moved to 24/7 Respiratory coverage models. In addition, clinical staff in other areas such as the Emergency Room and Med/Surg are being cross-trained to perform nebulizer and more simplistic treatments to provide further coverage and off-set the growing volumes. Hour per procedure standards have increased as well, shifting from a Best Practice level of 25 minutes per treatment to closer to 40 minutes
The ALTIUS team understands the immediate need for healthcare organizations to align their care delivery models with COVID safety directives without losing sight of the productivity initiatives critical to their financial strength. That is why we are staying at the forefront of these industry-wide operational changes, adjusting performance goals where necessary based on updated comparative data that reflects this new norm. We want to ensure that staffing levels continue to match each department’s workload and that safety, satisfaction, and positive outcomes remain the primary focus. Please reach out to us directly to discuss these and other strategies in further detail or learn more about our productivity and workforce optimization services!