The first ever Canadian Hospital Command Centre

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By Barbara Collins

As North America’s first digital hospital, we are in a privileged position to push the envelope when it comes to embracing innovative technology. The technology we have in place has enabled us to accelerate many care processes, improve information sharing and allow patients control over their environment, all of which improve patient care and outcomes.

Now, with the launch of our Command Centre in November 2017, we are able to integrate cutting-edge technology, insight-rich data and human expertise to create an innovative system that is contributing to delivery of an excellent patient experience.

Similar to airports, hospitals depend on the smooth operation of a number of moving parts. Our emergency department alone receives approximately 130,000 visits each year, and the impact of this high volume is felt by staff, physicians and support services in departments across the hospital. All acute care hospitals experience these pressures, both expected and unexpected. However, airports have air traffic control to support their operations and manage high traffic volumes, while hospitals have not traditionally had such support.

Our groundbreaking Command Centre fills that gap. Developed in partnership with GE Healthcare, it is a focal point of our strategy to deal with the pressures we face. As the first of its kind in Canada, and only the second in the world, the Command Centre features powerful analytical and predictive tools to help us to improve patient care and flow through the hospital. It also provides physicians and staff with more real-time information and solutions to developing crises, allowing them to focus their efforts and time on delivering excellent patient care.

At the hub of the Command Centre are large-scale screens displaying real-time data and predictive insight. The data is mined from multiple hospital systems – such as bed management and digital communications systems – and processed through algorithms so that it is displayed to a cross-departmental team in a meaningful way that allows them to take action. For example, if the system alerts Command Centre staff that the only activity standing in the way of a patient being discharged from a high-demand unit is an imaging exam, staff are able to coordinate care teams to prioritize the exam, expedite the discharge and accelerate the bed clean. These actions are each taken by a different team, but are orchestrated by Command Centre staff enabled by real-time information that makes delays and risks visible, often before they happen.

Understanding transitions from hospital to retirement homes

The cross-departmental nature of the Command Centre team is critical to its success. Decision-makers from each department are concentrated in a single space, improving their ability to communicate with one another. The team is able to react quickly to make decisions and empowered to take action to avoid developing crises.

The data from the Command Centre also gives the team a predictive view of hospital resources and supports. With a hospital-wide view of the demand for beds, porters, housekeeping and other support services over the 48 hours that lie ahead, the team is able to take proactive action to prevent bottlenecks and delays altogether. This predictive potential is a particularly exciting aspect of the Command Centre’s function.

Although still in its early days, the Command Centre is already improving the hospital’s processes, as the team is able allocate resources in real time and proactively manage potential issues before they become serious. It is also improving the ability of our physicians and staff to deliver excellent care at the highest levels that our patients deserve. When the flu season brought its usual peaks in demand for urgent care, the Command Centre was able to provide better support to care teams, prioritizing activities to improve patient care and manage the increased capacity in a more streamlined and integrated way.

The Command Centre is a work in progress, and we will be continuing to build on the existing system to add new capabilities, such as monitoring quality of care and clinical data of patients. With these features and the existing improvements to patient flow, we anticipate that over the next few months, the Command Centre will enable an increase in capacity equivalent to opening a small community hospital within our walls.

There is still more we can do to improve reliability and safety of care and improve outcomes for our patients. At Humber River Hospital, we view the Command Centre as a focal point in our vision to deliver innovative and compassionate care to our patients.

Barbara Collins is the President and CEO, Humber River Hospital.