Hospitals are in continuous service of mankind providing excellent patient care by obtaining operation productivity.
One of the dominant factors affecting operational yield is the delay in the patient discharge process. It takes approximately 2 to 3 hours for cash patients and 5 to 6 hours, sometimes even more for insurance patients to clear paperwork and get discharged. Delay in discharge keep the hospital beds occupied leading to revenue loss. There are many factors causing the delay in discharge, some of the factors are-
- Lack of coordination amongst department
- Lack of planning since patient admission
- Keeping work pending to be completed on the day of discharge, etc.
These points that keep extending the discharge time can be changed. Here are a few steps you can take to prevent the delay in the discharge process:-
Coordinated teamwork is the key to success
Inter and Intra coordination between departments is necessary to get work done fast as approval from different departments is needed to complete the discharge. To get the discharge paperwork done patients or their accompanying family member has to run from one department to another which consumes a lot of time. Connecting all the responsible department to a common effective Hospital Information System (HIS) will encourage the hospital staff working on discharge as soon as the doctor announces. It will help in clearance much earlier with hassle-free, seamless communication and process. The patient bill will be ready in minutes. So, we can say that the amalgamation of hospital processes and technology is something to think about!
Automate your discharge process
Completion of discharge summary usually takes time as the process is not started until the last minute after the consultant doctor has confirmed patient discharge. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of updating the patient file regularly will ensure a complete, legible, comprehensive medical record of patients allowing a faster discharge summary. Maintaining a central electronic medical record (EMR) available on the hospital information system will help in automation of the above-mentioned step making the discharge summary process fast and easy.
Let your patients know the estimated cost of treatment
Hospitals are used to follow the age-old processes. The hospital usually starts billing only after the patient is approved for discharge. There is a need to begin the billing process much earlier. Rather than keeping the billing for the last day, hospitals can start real-time billing. The staff can create, record and bill medicines, consumables and other charges to the patient daily. This will help in avoiding last-minute confusion and questioning by the patients. It will also improve the billing department efficiency. With the real-time billing draft, the hospital can keep patients and insurance payers informed for the payment. This will save a lot of time.
Keep your patients informed about the date of discharge
When a patient gets hospitalized, doctors can provide an estimated date of discharge to the patients, attendants and all concerned departments an approximate time of treatment and recovery after closely examining the clinical conditions of the former. Things may twist and twirl a bit but still depending on the given approximation the staff in the system will be ready with the requirements for discharge especially those which takes most of the time like discharge summary, pharmacy clearance, insurance, etc. Forecasting an approximate date of discharge will help in reducing the work burden on staff and make the process quick on the actual day of discharge.
Manage your per bed inventory efficiently
Inventory management refers to the process of ordering, storing, and using a hospital’s inventory. Inventory here is consumables (eg, gauge, cotton), medicine, and medical devices. All these items are charged to the patients by the hospital. Therefore, count and return of any unused medicine and consumables are important before the discharge. The inventory return usually starts only after approval of discharge from the consulting doctors. The exchange or return of inventory takes time as both patients and hospital staff have to go through the long list of consumable used from the day of admission. Most of the time patients won't recognize the medicine or consumable used during the treatment. This leads to a lot of explaining required by hospital staff, which ultimately cause a delay in discharge.
Help your patients in filing an insurance claim
Most of the time the patients and their families are unaware of the fact that they don’t have to wait for the discharge day to start the process for insurance claims. Hospital staff can help the patients by assisting in filling and starting insurance claim from the day of admission. Having an insurance claim officer in the hospital to manage all insurances not only benefit patients but also improve the discharge process drastically.
To make patient discharge smooth, medical and operational team have to coordinate. Irrespective of providing top class patient care a small delay in discharge might lead to a very dissatisfied patient. It is possible to reduce delays and bring down the discharge time by executing the suggested changes in operations and automating hospital processes as much as possible. Having a smooth discharge process will bring appreciation to your staff and improve your hospital HCAHPS score.