TeleTracking Technologies: Fighting Hospital-Acquired Infections with Patient Flow Software

Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are one of the biggest health hazards facing hospitals today. Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicate that HAIs, which can range from pneumonia to MRSA, cost hospitals up to $45 billion annually and kill an estimated 100,000 people per year.

Surprisingly, inefficient hospital workflow practices may be partially responsible for the spread of HAIs. Incoming patients may be tested for infection, but they might be assigned a bed before the results come in. Hospital staffers often rely on written lists to identify and communicate isolation areas, but these lists might not be shared with all staff and may be outdated from the moment they are recorded. The resulting communications gap leaves staff vulnerable to inadvertent exposure to infectious pathogens, which they could then pass on to patients. HAIs are not only potentially life threatening, they can lead to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, and fewer available beds for incoming patients. It’s a lose-lose situation for both the patient and the hospital.

In June, we reported on the use of patient flow automation software in medical centers. Hospitals, burdened by decreasing reimbursement, budget cuts, healthcare reform concerns, and more patients than they can handle, are turning to automated workflow solutions in a bid to increase efficiency and productivity. One company working in this space is Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies, a provider of patient flow automation solutions to the healthcare industry. The company recently reported the successful use of its automated patient flow and bed management software at the University of Virginia (UVA) Medical Center and Methodist Healthcare Systemin San Antonio, Texas. TeleTracking’s patient flow solution, the Capacity Management Suite™, gives healthcare providers the ability to instantaneously communicate a patient’s infection status to all staff levels within the hospital. Infection status can be recorded before a patient is assigned a bed. In addition, the system can also match patients with a specific infection and group their room assignments by cohort.

Patient flow automation software may help to reduce the severity of another threat to patient safety: overcrowding. Methodist Healthcare System, a hospital system consisting of 6 medical systems and 1800 beds, routinely experienced problems with overcrowding. Due to long waits for care, patients regularly left the hospital without being seen, and the hospital periodically had to turn away patients. TeleTracking worked with the healthcare system to develop a centralized patient placement center that took care of all patients within the six-hospital system, helping the organization to streamline its operations and move patients through the system more efficiently. “It’s not just about infections, it’s about gaining efficiency and streamlining bed placement throughout the organization,” says Michele Lerch, a patient flow consultant for the Avanti division of TeleTracking.

Lerch stresses that the switch from paper to digital doesn’t happen overnight. “The difficulty lies in organizational culture change,” she says. The challenge is to ensure that employees, who may be accustomed to paper-based systems, are accountable for using the software in order to realize its potential benefits. She adds that hospital management has to be behind the change for a digital system to be truly effective. “Change has to come from the top down, from the executive level,” says Lerch. “Patient flow is everybody’s business.  We have a responsibility to make sure that we have available beds.”

If TeleTracking’s numbers are any indication, the market for patient flow software appears to be strong:  According to company data, TeleTracking has experienced eight consecutive years of growth since 2001, driven by a tight capital market and the potential of healthcare reform to have a negative financial impact on U.S. hospitals. The company counts more than 800 hospitals in the U.S., Canada, and the UK among its clients.

Although hospital beds may be in short supply, there is no scarcity of patient flow software providers.  TeleTracking faces competition from some of the larger ADT/HIS vendors such as Eclipsys, McKesson, Epic and Meditech, which, according to TeleTracking, offer ‘lightweight’ versions of patient flow automation.  As hospitals look for ways to boost their operational efficiency and better serve their patients, look for sales of patient flow automation software to increase.

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