Florida is a popular place to retire. With the arrival of “snowbirds” every winter, local hospital leaders expect and plan for seasonal fluctuations in patient census. But what one area hospital didn’t plan for was a boom in Florida’s year-round population, including young people and families who have relocated to the area. This created a daunting challenge.

Managing unpredictable patient census and capacity surges is always difficult. To avoid the risks associated with understaffing, hospital leaders often lean toward staffing to full capacity, whether it is actually necessary or not. In this scenario, staff could end up over-scheduled and find themselves sent home after two hours, which is frustrating to the staff member and incurs unnecessary costs for the hospital. 

Unpredicted surges and unexpected discharges can also create an inconsistency in staffing per unit and in bed capacity.  This may cause a hospital to respond by shifting nurses and patients from one unit to another, or to place patients wherever they can find a bed -often to the dissatisfaction of patients, families, and staff. 

Transforming Operations with Predictive Analytics

To solve these unexpected operational issues, hospital leaders are increasingly turning to predictive analytics. By applying artificial intelligence, machine learning and external data (e.g., weather forecasts, air quality indexes) to the hospital’s own data and operational policies, Hospital IQ provided this 800+ bed hospital with accurate census forecasts and the ability to proactively manage capacity, allocate staff, and drive patient flow throughout the system. This allows leaders to make more informed decisions, such as how to best allocate staffing resources, whether and when to open overflow units, and whether to call in extra staff to handle predicted patient volume.

By leveraging Hospital IQ’s accurate census forecasts and robust staffing tools, hospital leadership gained the confidence to proactively prepare for and manage anticipated patient surges in advance. Census forecasting can even indicate that previously expected surges are not imminent and surge planning is not required, saving time and expenses. Additionally, the proactive view gained through predictive analytics allows staffing offices to allocate staff, including float staff, more appropriately and promptly, improving patient care, reducing the waste associated with overstaffing, automating and streamlining time-consuming processes, and decreasing stress for both leadership and nurses. 

With Hospital IQ, hospital leadership and staff can use their  mobile phones throughout the day to ascertain the current and forecasted “health” of their hospital, enabling them to proactively plan ahead. As a result, the hospital is better able to manage its flex capacity and assign staff to the units in which they are best suited to work, enabling staff members to serve patients with the highest level of competence throughout their stay, improving overall care and patient satisfaction.