As the world’s population continues to age, the trend of hospital room crowding is now becoming a norm. Not only does hospital overcrowding lead to long waiting times for patients, healthcare professionals also find themselves overworked in a bid to attend to an ever-increasing number of patients.

The solution to improving hospital environments and resolving overcrowding inefficiency is simply to innovate. Here are some of the ways that hospitals have taken action to overcome these bottlenecks in the waiting rooms.

1. Optimising bed space by appointing “bed czars”

Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, Southern California, has effectively reduced wait times in the emergency room by appointing more nurses for a position known as “bed czars”, whose job is to monitor patient discharges and ensure that patients in the emergency room are quickly transferred for overnight stay. This helps to optimise the use of bed space in the hospital, and makes sure that new patients can be efficiently attended to.

2. Speeding up diagnosis with tomography technology

The Tri-City Medical Centre in Oceanside, California, has also improved efficiency by investing in the latest technology of low-dose computed tomography scanners. These tomography scanners are the first of their kind in the region, and they are able to rapidly scan a patient’s body in just one-fifth of a second. At the same time, the scanners produce extremely high resolution images for easier diagnoses. This investment has clearly paid off, as doctors at the medical centre have reported a faster turn-around time and more efficient diagnoses.

3. Robot aid for healthcare services

Singapore’s Changi General Hospital has also employed the use of robots to improve overall healthcare efficiency in the hospital. A robot called HOSPI helps to deliver items such as medicine, case files, and specimens within the hospital. It is equipped with sensors to avoid obstacles and patients, and is also programmed with the hospital’s map data. So far, Changi General Hospital has reported a 30% increase in the hospital’s productivity ever since HOSPI was introduced. It has also helped to allay manpower pressures.

4. Reducing wait times through coloured allocations

Over at Malaysia, wait times were reduced by half and efficiency was drastically improved by simply employing the simple measures of coloured allocations. Working closely with hospitals, Malaysia’s LEAN healthcare initiative devised simple solutions to improve the management of hospitals. For starters, hospitals that lacked technology improved on the coordination of bed allocations through coloured magnets. Green magnets were placed on beds that were ready for new patients, red magnets indicated that patients were in care, and yellow ones meant that patients were soon to be discharged. Albeit simple, these coloured allocations provided nurses with a visual edge, enabling them to ramp up the speed of bedding allocations to improve patient welfare. Hospital processes involve “many departments which need to work together”, and waiting times of patients depend on how fast labs, pharmacies, even X-ray departments work, she says.

5. Streamlining communication through PDAs

At the Humber River Hospital in Toronto, nurses, doctors and patients are equipped with smartphones that can snap pictures, provide code call applications and scan bar codes. Not only does this help nurses and physicians to better locate their patients, the use of such smartphone digital technology also improves transparency as patients can access their own information. Since implementing this digitised system late last year, the Humber River Hospital has seen improvements in safety and standards of care. MIMS

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