Emergency department surgical admit boarders are symptoms of patient flow challenges hospital teams face daily. To help mitigate these challenges, an improved focus on efficient discharge practices is a proven strategy to ensure beds are available for incoming patients.

With a goal to safely and efficiently discharge patients as soon as clinically ready, many hospitals launch project-based initiatives to improve discharge practices. But if you’re like most, initial improvements are typically short-lived and fail to sustain long-term results.


  • Like well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions which millions of people make each year, only a small fraction manage to succeed. Most simply cannot bring about significant long-term change. For example, an individual commits to lose weight, starts a new diet, and indeed, loses weight. With the goal achieved, they ease back into eating the way they always did and re-gain the weight. The diet has not fundamentally changed how food and eating is approached. Similarly, with discharge-based initiatives, old habits return, the number and duration of delays creep back up, and eventually, the same challenges resurface.
  • Bed huddles are another strategy and a mainstay of most hospital operations. The concept makes perfect sense: Cross-functional clinical and administrative team members meet to ensure smooth patient flow by reviewing hospital census figures, anticipated discharges, anticipated admissions and transfers. Leaders and staff are meant to identify specific problem areas and decide on the actions needed to solve the day’s challenges. Unfortunately, because so many disconnected, manual processes are associated with collecting, communicating and collating the status of each unit and every patient within that unit, bed huddles are often not an effective resource that meaningfully impacts the discharge process. Most typically, everyone reports the status of their areas, but there is little to no focus placed on the synchronized actions of cross-functional departments needed to actually make the day a success.

The root of the problem is the massive amount of information that is maintained manually through written notes, text messages, phone calls, and conversations as well as siloed across clinical and operation systems. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to effectively synthesize all relevant information for effective discharge practices and proper capacity planning, and make it visible to all members of the care team. So, the vicious cycle continues – new project-based initiatives are commenced but fail to sustain results, and bed huddles become perceived as ineffective status meetings, disregarded by participants as a time-waster, so participation in them declines.


For hospital leaders today, the advent of intelligent automation, which use artificial intelligence, workflow automation, and streamlined communication deliver an operations management platform that provides wide-ranging past, present and future insight into hospital operations in a way manual processes simply cannot. Hospital teams receive accurate forecasts of patient census and see the units most likely to be impacted with capacity challenges. Data can be viewed at the hospital enterprise level or segmented to a specific unit. The most likely patient discharges are identified and prioritized so that action can be taken where it’s most impactful.

These intelligent automation platforms provide succinct and targeted recommended actions across multi-disciplinary teams. Care progression and discharge barriers are easily documented and communicated, and everyone involved is aware of the actions needed and the current status of those actions.

The implementation of an operations management platform means everyone is on the same page. Cross-functional teams can anticipate what’s coming next, communicate any barriers, and document care progression steps in a single system. When integrated into the daily culture of the organization, hospitals can move beyond project-based initiatives, bed huddles can actually impact results, and a truly sustainable method for continuous performance excellence can successfully be achieved.


Part 2 – Top 5 Recommendations for Optimal Discharge Practice Improvement

Part 3 – The Benefits of Intelligent Automation to Optimize Discharge Practices



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