In Charge of Patient Discharge? How to Get Time Back In Your Day

by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on May 16, 2018

NW_Discharge_300xWe’d all like to have more hours in the day, wouldn’t we?

As a nurse myself, I get it. Seemingly every shift, something will crop up that throws your entire day into disarray. Whether it’s a genuine emergency, an unanticipated patient need or a directive handed down from the top at your organization, you’re going to encounter something that leaves you scrambling for more time in the day.

At such moments, even those 12-hour shifts may not be enough time to get everything done that you need to get done.

This isn’t limited to nurses and physicians. When you’re responsible for patients in any capacity, there’s never a slow day at the “office.” If there’s an opportunity to get more time back into your day, it’s going to be popular.

That brings me to post-acute referrals and placement. At some facilities, this can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of a patient’s journey. An individual is recuperating, they’re ready to get on with the next step of their care, but they might have to wait days while the necessary steps are taken.

You understand all the work that goes into getting an individual to the right facility even if the patient does not. You’re working hard to gather all the requisite Patient Health Information (PHI), transmitting the details to facilities in your area, corresponding with representatives of those facilities, tabulating a list of which organizations are able to accept your patient, presenting those choices to your patients and facilitating the transfer itself. Meanwhile, the patient whiles away their time, wondering why it’s taking hours or days to get to where they need to go.

What’s more, you’re probably handling this process for numerous patients at a given time. Ultimately, this harms the patient experience and clogs up your day. Patients start to stack up at this juncture and there’s not enough time in the day to free up traffic.

I have good news. There’s a way for you to engineer post-acute referrals and gain more time back in your day. I’m going to tell you a little bit more about how Ensocare Transition works and how software like the kind we deploy in hospitals around the country can improve your process at each step.

Send in Bulk

I’ve talked to so many case managers who used to spend a large portion of their day standing in front of a fax machine, scanning in hundreds of pages and repeating the process over and over to get the information to post-acute facilities.

Post-acute transition software, on the other hand, lets you gather the patient packet and send it to numerous facilities at once. Once the recipient has been set up to accept referrals (a process that Ensocare handles directly on behalf of your organization), they can then receive the information and respond at once about whether or not they’re able to accept that patient.

Let me put your mind at ease about one objection we often hear raised: referring to facilities that only accept fax. That’s okay. With an E-message-to-Fax function, you can choose to send to the receiving facility’s fax machine rather than an EHR directly. What’s more, our latest software upgrade gives you the ability to toggle between the two options.

Here’s why that’s nice: let’s say the majority of staff at a post-acute facility works Monday through Friday, 9-5, with a skeleton crew on weekends. That facility may not be capable of receiving messages electronically on the weekend, even if you need to place a patient at that time. Toggle the primary communication method to ‘Fax’ on the weekends, though, and you won’t have to wait until Monday to send a patient to that facility.

Having the ability to send messages instantly can free up your time immensely, and that’s only the beginning.

time-to-your-dischargeResponse Rates

It’s not only easier for you to send information, but such a system also makes it easier for post-acute providers to send an immediate response. Because the message is waiting there for them, they don’t need to wait until they have a free moment to place a phone call and review the various details of the patient’s needs over the phone.

All of the PHI is readily available already. This can have an incredible impact on your ability to gather responses quickly. We’ve seen facilities conditioned to waiting hours and days suddenly have a slew of choices to present to patients within minutes. We consider an acceptable average response rate to be below 30 minutes, and we’ve even seen much lower than that.

Patient Presentation

The next big issue that requires a lot of time is the process of putting together information on prospective facilities to actually present to patients.

Some facilities may reverse this process, showing potential organizations to patients before asking those organizations if they are able to accept patients. Our recommendation, in the interest of an improved patient experience, is to find out first what facilities can accept the individual and then present those. You don’t want your patient to get their heart set on a facility only to be rejected, then have to repeat that process a couple times.

So, for this example, we’re going to assume you present the choices after you’ve already gotten your responses.

Getting this information together can be an arduous process in and of itself, especially if you’re printing these materials or you have to talk the patient through the details of each and every choice. That’s why we’ve deployed a tool called Patient Choice that lets you load up the potential transfer locations on a tablet and present them to the patient. User reviews, details of the facility, insurance information; all of this information is presented directly to the individual.

After you’ve surfaced those facilities that have stated that they’re able to accept a patient, the software does the rest, spotlighting the relevant information in an intuitive format. You can even have the patient acknowledge they’ve had their choices presented and authorize the transfer right within the app if you so choose. Otherwise, it integrates with paperwork or apps you already have in place.

Out the Door…with Time to Spare

Once the choice has been made and the foundation for the transfer is in order, you can initiate the transfer itself. At this point, the groundwork has been laid and the heavy lifting is over.

When the process is engineered in this manner, you haven’t just taken small shortcuts that bring a few minutes here or there back into your day. You’ve cut out hours that would otherwise be spent on the fax machine, going back and forth to consult with the patient, waiting on hold on the phone or printing mounds of paperwork.

Automated discharge software is a lifesaver for nurses, case managers, social workers, anyone who operates in this sphere. I’ve seen it firsthand so many times. By engineering post-acute transfers with an eye toward reducing time, you can take back your work day and spend that time doing what you do best: improving the lives of your patients.

How much can your organization save with automated discharge technology? Calculate your ROI.

Meet the Author

Thalken brings more than 30 years of experience in health-care leadership to our company. Prior to joining the company, she served as Enterprise Vice President for Care Logistics in Atlanta, Ga. She has held executive leadership positions at hospitals in Nebraska and Iowa, including the position of System Quality Executive for Alegent Health. Thalken has presented on the topics of improving quality, patient flow and throughput at various industry conferences and webinars. Thalken holds an MBA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, American Organization of Nurse Executives and American Case Management Association.