Hospitals are full. There are long waits for ambulances, a bulging A&E and competing pressures on hospital capacity. Making sure patients can be safely and quickly discharged has a major effect on the number of beds hospitals can use for acute care.
Patient discharge is where the NHS and social care come together. Once a patient is fit to leave hospital, the race is on to find an appropriate care setting. This activity involves multiple organisations, people, priorities, and processes. The perfect combination for setbacks and delays.
There are many complex reasons behind delayed hospital discharge, many without any easy solution. But small changes can make a big impact every day.
It’s no secret that there’s plenty of new technology out there to improve how we work within health and social care. So, how can we improve the patient discharge process with technology?
How does an inefficient hospital discharge process affect patients?
To learn more about the impact of delayed discharge, we talked to Debbie Harris, founder of online care directory, Autumna.
The stats she gave us from Autumna’s industry research were astonishing. On average, elderly patients were in hospital 31 days longer than they should have been due to a delayed care plan.
That’s 31 days of:
- Unnecessary stress for patients and their families
- Admission delays for other patients in need of hospital care
- Increased risk of hospital acquired infection
Imagine the impact expediting this process this could have for patients. Now consider the time and money it could save for hospitals and care settings.
How can digital technology streamline the hospital discharge process?
We know many processes within this space are manual and need digitalisation. It’s one of the many challenges identified for improvement in the adult social care digital transformation programme.
But what could ‘going digital’ actually mean for discharge teams?
Technology for collaboration and communication
Let’s start with decision making. Discharging a patient is a multi-disciplinary effort, with a lot of moving parts. Collaborative tools within Microsoft 365 can bring people together and synchronise information to make decisions faster.
Some hospitals are already using this technology. The urology department at University College London NHS Foundation Trust have embraced Microsoft Teams as a cornerstone of collaboration. This simple system brings together over 20 registrars and more than 30 consultants.
According to urologist Nicki Jeffries, the use of Microsoft Teams has “enabled increased interaction between all the staff and strengthened professional relationships.”
She writes, “Without a doubt, it has promoted exceptional teamwork and co-operation and provided fantastic teaching for junior doctors. All this helps us provide better care for the patients and […] has helped us to speed up discharge processes and limit patient time within the hospital.”
Technology to automate manual processes
Finding the right care setting for a patient is a complex – and highly personalised – process. But do you really need all those phone calls?
Automation can significantly reduce the time it takes to identify an appropriate placement. According to Debbie Harris, a simple form can eliminate the need to ring around dozens of care providers to see if they have capacity for your patient.
”The primary issue is not necessarily to have more beds, but to ensure that the people sitting in those beds leave hospital in an appropriate and timely manner…. [Delayed hospital discharge] is a bit like having a cork in the NHS.Debbie HarrisManaging Director, Autumna
Autumna have developed an online assessment tool which prompts users to define the type of care home they’re looking for. From this, they can send out tailored enquires to every registered care provider who fits the criteria at lightning speed. According to Debbie, this process takes “about ten seconds.”
This is an exciting example of automation improving time consuming manual processes. We can apply the same principle to many process-driven tasks in health and social care.
In Microsoft 365, you can automate your workflow using powerful tools including Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Forms, and Microsoft Power Platform.
Discover how technology could optimise your patient discharge process
Digitalising the patient discharge process could significantly reduce the impact of bed-blocking. By creating a more streamlined handover from medical to social care, the NHS can improve patient experience at all stages of acute treatment, from A&E admissions to scheduled operations and ambulance response.
These are a few ideas on how to digitalise your discharge process. If you’re interested in finding out more, get in touch to book a free 30-minute consultation with a Microsoft specialist.