From Aristotle’s theories in meteorology in the fourth century B.C., to the Royal Navy’s first modern forecasts in the mid-19th century, to Al Roker, people have long wanted to understand what the weather is going to be like tomorrow.
In that time, the science of forecasting has come a long way. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you believe the need is very high for good forecasting around hospital operations; in a world of value-based payments, health systems simply can no longer afford to be locked into a reactive cycle when faced with constant patient flow bottlenecks and staff shortages.
The interesting thing, though, is that a forecast itself is never enough. I’ve talked to many hospitals about demand forecasting over the past several years, and I invariably hear the same thing: a forecast is very important to have, but it’s useless without a way to act on it. A good forecast is not a perfect one; that’s an impossibility. In the healthcare operations space, as in most spaces, a good forecast is actionable, and it’s only one-third of the equation to improvement. Here’s the whole picture:
- Access to quality demand forecasts that point out abnormalities in census and throughput patterns, both in the longer term (2-5 days) and the shorter term (24 hours and less). Highlighting potential trouble spots is the key to this step.
- When abnormal conditions are in the forecast, identification of the actions you can take: Which specific patients might be the most appropriate to move to alleviate bottlenecks? Where are today’s surgical patients likely to end up? Does a spike in throughput make you understaffed on a certain level of care or unit?
- Action! It might seem obvious, but it’s often not. Health systems need operational controls and decision-makers empowered to accelerate that patient move or bring in that floor nurse ahead of time. Good, trustworthy data makes it much easier for these calls to be made.
And that’s where the weather analogy falls apart in a wonderful way: you can’t control the weather; you just have to work around it. But you can influence your patient flow patterns by adjusting resources to meet demand.
The best forecast is one that doesn’t come true because you took action early. With Hospital IQ’s census solutions, hospitals and health systems have the power to control the bumpy weather of incorrect staffing and patient flow bottlenecks, leading to safer patient stays, higher reimbursements and happier staff.