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As hospitals continue to struggle with healthcare workforce shortages and high staff turnover rates, capacity is a significant pain point. Hospitals cannot keep beds and operating rooms open to meet patient care demands unless they are adequately staffed.

When it comes to technology to help optimize capacity management, hospital leaders want solutions that can automatically identify and prioritize patients who are ready for discharge using real-time data, according to a new report from a healthcare software company Hospital IQ.

The company partnered with independent research firm Sage Growth Partners for the report, which included qualitative interviews and gathered responses from 111 hospital and health system leaders. Leaders included CEOs, Chief Operating Officers, Chief Medical Officers, Chief Nursing Officers, Chiefs of Surgery and Chief Medical Informatics Officers.

The survey found that health system leaders expect their top priorities over the next few years to be increasing surgical volume, optimizing operating room utilization, reducing the average length of stay for patients and streamlining the discharge process.

But managing capacity — both for hospital beds and the operating room — can be difficult for hospitals. It requires staff members who are likely already burned out to quickly balance and calculate a number of variables, including bed availability, staffing needs and patient throughput.

Hospitals often turn to technology to deal with the complexity of this problem, but they still experience challenges in using data, according to the report. In fact, 73% of executives said they believe their data reporting needs to be improved to support day-to-day operational decisions.

Many hospitals rely on their EHRs to help with capacity management because they’ve already made a significant investment in the technology, but EHRs don’t always use real-time data, the report said.

To produce fast and accurate capacity management information, technology platforms must work with real-time data. But the report shows that hospitals’ use of real-time data to support day-to-day operations is still weak, with only 39% of organizations relying on it.

The report also showed that hospital leaders believe their organizations can do more to ensure efficient use of beds and operating room time. For example, on the surgical side of things, less than half of leaders said they would rate the perioperative management of patient flow in their organization as good. And only 8% are extremely satisfied with their organization’s current operating room utilization levels.

Hospital leaders agreed that technology was needed to address their capacity management issues. They said they are looking for solutions that can use real-time data to accurately forecast demand, automate operational workflows and catalyze the discharge process.

Without effective capacity management and optimized resource utilization, hospitals will struggle to meet patient demands for care. This means that patients will be turned away. This is not ideal, as 92% of the leaders surveyed said they consider their market to be competitive. At a time when hospital finances are incredibly tight, most organizations cannot afford to lose revenue by turning away patients.

Photo: tonefotografia, Getty Images

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