Digital patient flow trackers enhance discharge planning

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On inpatient units at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener, discharge planning whiteboards have been replaced with 65-inch touch-screen monitors that track the journey to patient discharge in an interactive and highly-visual way.

This innovative solution called stayTrack was designed by Oculys Health Informatics, of Waterloo. It was rolled out at St. Mary’s under a demonstration project which received funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, as well as in-kind funding from Oculys.

When introducing the technology, St. Mary’s adopted the acronym SISTER (System to Integrate Safe, Timely and Effective Return) in a nod to its founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Hamilton. The monitors display information that improves efficiency of daily bullet rounds with interdisciplinary teams by providing comprehensive real-time information.

“This information supports the team’s discharge process by having all healthcare providers involved and informed in the patient’s plan of care,” says St. Mary’s President Don Shilton. “It helps, in a very visual way, to pinpoint any bottlenecks so those can be addressed in a timely fashion.”

Information appearing on the tracker is pulled automatically from Meditech (i.e. lab and diagnostic imaging results) or entered manually by members of the care team, including physicians, doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers and the CCAC. The information allows team members to clearly see who has done their part, or still has work to do, in order to move the patient toward the discharge date.

Graphic icons, for each patient clearly indicate whether patients require isolation or a bed alarm, are at risk of falling or unable to have food or fluids by mouth. There are also icons for discharge considerations, such as whether the patient needs CCAC service, requires home oxygen or has been designated Alternative Level of Care.

Other features of the system include:

  • Web-based, cloud technology which is accessible by password only on in-house computers or mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
  • Auto alerts sent to members of the care team when information is updated. Patient information is encrypted and protected by the hospital’s firewalls.
  • A complete picture for physicians so they can initiate discharge while on-site or off-site, including on weekends, when bottlenecks often occur.
  • Different views on the monitors for patient privacy, which is more private than whiteboards.
  • Timely, at-a-glance information to help manage patient flow and improve access for patients coming from the operating rooms or emergency department.

The patient flow tracker is the latest partnership between St. Mary’s and Oculys. In 2012 St. Mary’s became the first hospital in Ontario to launch a real-time online tool that predicts emergency department waits for patients with the least serious medical needs. Ten Ontario hospitals and six in Winnipeg are now using this technology for emergency department wait times.

Anne Kelly is Manager of Communications at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener.

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