With the resurgence of COVID-19 both in the U.S. and wider world, it’s safe to say the pandemic will be with us for a long time, and possibly in multiple waves. This has of course affected hospitals across the country, increasing patient volume with longer-than-average patient stays at a time when most hospitals have resumed elective surgeries and are experiencing staffing shortages.

And it’s not just an increased load of COVID-positive patients that’s causing additional patient flow issues. Most patients need to show verified negative results on at least one COVID-19 test before admission and before discharge, adding even more flow barriers to the “normal” process. These aren’t PUIs, who are coming in with COVID-19 symptoms; they’re simply any patient who may be coming into the hospital for care, or any patient in the hospital who’s discharging to a post-acute care location like a skilled nursing facility or a rehab center. These screening tests are required to stem the threat of infection both in the hospital and in the community.

This arrests patient flow for patients both entering and exiting the hospital until the test is ordered, performed, analyzed and communicated. Historically, getting test results to care teams can be a pretty clunky process – the variety of communication devices, test systems and EMRs can mean care teams don’t hear about results quickly, and can’t integrate that information easily into the rest of their admission and discharge plans. This is a major problem in a world where timeliness is everything.

Our customers have been using Hospital IQ’s discharge management tools to guide patients to safe, timely discharges since well before the pandemic began. Those hospitals were able to slipstream new needs and procedures easily into their daily discharge processes with Hospital IQ’s flexible technology and ability to integrate data from multiple testing sources. In other words, a major barrier to discharge became just another part of the normal workflow. Test results flow automatically from their source systems into the Hospital IQ platform, where they automatically set each patient’s COVID-19 status and mark when that status change took place. All this creates an effective discharge process that gets patients back to their homes and frees up beds at a time when availability matters more than ever.

Hospital patient flow is extraordinarily complex – just check out this recent diagram from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement – and moving through the “last mile” of care to resolve barriers and safely discharge a patient is an intricate dance between physicians, nurses and care managers. Now, more than ever, discharge management is vital to keeping hospitals running well and safely. Hospital IQ’s discharge automation tools unite care teams, identify barriers to discharge and provide predictive context for decision-making – critical needs that are no longer optional in U.S hospital healthcare.