By Russ Graney
Length of stay is both a direct and indirect factor in efficient and effective hospital operations and an important clinical metric for hospital administrators, management, and executives. The impact it has on various areas of hospital operations and revenue is considerable, which is why it's important to prioritize it.
What factors contribute to length of stay?
A patient being admitted, treated, and discharged quickly and seamlessly has lasting effects on patient health outcomes, overall satisfaction, and hospital profit. There are many contributing factors and costs of longer hospital length of stay, including age, employment status, marital status, history of previous admission, patient condition at discharge, medical condition, payment method, and type of treatment.
Reducing length of stay (what you can control)
While some of these factors are beyond a hospital’s control, there are some that can be proactively addressed with a referral management platform like Aidin. Technology combined with communication can improve overall efficiency, and, ultimately, reduce length of stay by monitoring and managing patients from admission to discharge.
You can often significantly decrease a patient’s length of stay by improving communication between care teams can. One recent study found that miscommunication causes approximately 80% of serious medical errors. Poor communication can also lead to issues such as patients getting transferred with little information from providers or requiring additional time to brief new care team members and get them up to speed on the patient’s history and needs. Hospitals commonly see increases in length of stay and readmission rates when communication issues persist, which can be costly.
What does length of stay cost Tennessee hospitals?
The Tennessee Hospital Association provides data to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), which shows a statewide average length of stay of 5.1 days. This represents a slow increase since 2006 and is 4% higher than the national length of stay average of 4.9 days. The average hospital stay cost for Tennessee is $11,389 per year, which has been steadily increasing since 2007 and adds up to over $9 billion in annual statewide hospital costs.
Reducing length of stay through technology
Over the last decade or so, numerous studies and reports identify a correlation between a patient’s positive outcome and a decreased hospital length of stay. However, hospital groups are now able to leverage technology like healthcare referral management software to enable their teams to address length of stay challenges and positively impact various other outcomes as well, such as readmission rates, patient satisfaction, staff satisfaction, and time spent managing numerous case management workflows, and their ROI.
An added benefit: enhancing the patient experience
When rolling out technology such as referral management, one key area continuing to gain attention is a focus on patient experience —because of its impact on a hospital’s bottom line. Oftentimes, keeping patients in the hospital for longer than necessary can lead to decreased patient satisfaction. When preventable factors such as poor communication cause unnecessary delays in hospital discharge, it usually leads to frustration by both the patients and their families, which can negatively impact how they perceive the level of their care overall. Patients who are discharged at the right time are more likely to feel positive about their care and return to that hospital for future care needs.
Patient experience impacts a hospital’s reputation and the level of trust patients, families, and the community have in them. Some interesting patient experience data from a patient experience report put out by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions using the scores from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). Deloitte’s report found that “hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability.” Specifically, hospitals with “excellent” patient ratings had an average net margin of 4.7%, compared to just 1.8% for hospitals with “low” ratings.
So how can hospitals specifically look to reduce their length of stay? Some key strategies to decrease the length of stay focused around communication enhancements include:
- Improve care team communication
The data noted previously in this article shows how errors and inefficiencies can negatively impact patient outcomes, satisfaction, and long-term trust. Since some of these issues are often caused by miscommunication, hospitals with effective communication built on a solid foundation often come out on top. Aidin helps hospital groups streamline communication by managing case management workflows and acting as a hub for messaging between case management teams and providers.
- Use secure record sharing to drive better communication
Secure record sharing allows teams to connect with partners – sharing records, referrals, and requests via their preferred communication methods such as fax, email, or even text. The information is readily available, able to be shared and received in an ideal and timely manner, allows hospitals to source and confirm the right referral for a patient, and helps manage the various workflows necessary to discharge them from the hospital quickly in one place.
- Roll out instant messaging to improve care team communication
Efficient and reliable communication is a major factor in the success hospital groups see with Aidin’s HIPAA-compliant messaging system. It helps care teams securely chat and share patient details with anyone in the care community, allowing the entire care team to understand what care a patient needs and what has already been done for a patient, leading to reduced length of stay.
- Create better patient care workflows
Every minute counts from admission to discharge. Better workflows allow hospitals to continually prioritize high-quality care and discharge patients in the appropriate amount of time.
- Use patient checklists to streamline workflows
A patient referral management system like Aidin allows hospitals and teams visibility into ongoing tasks, shows daily to-do lists per patient, and lets tasks get assigned to appropriate staff. Aidin also provides teams the ability to receive real-time alerts when tasks are overdue or incomplete.
- Showcase real-time insights via capacity reports
Referral management software can provide real-time capacity reports so hospitals can identify patient discharge delays, share insights across their team, and see opportunities to create additional capacity.
- Compile a network of providers for referral
A digital auction environment like Aidin’s Referral Marketplace allows providers to compete for referrals and lets hospitals find and secure the best services for patients. Reduce denials, delays, and length of stay by managing active referrals and monitoring authorization requests all in one streamlined digital location.
The bottom line on technology enabling reduced length of stay
Hospital groups around the country are using referral management systems like Aidin to manage workflows, enhance external provider relationships, and improve key metrics like length of stay. Data shows that leveraging Aidin’s platform helps reduce length of stay by .86 day across the clients using it compared to legacy software systems. In fact, UCLA Health saw an average reduction in length of stay of 1 full day, with a reduction of 2.2 days for patients requiring inpatient rehab.
Note: Aidin is sponsoring the ViVE conference in Nashville, exhibiting at booth #704-5. ViVE runs MArch 26-29, 2023.
Russ Graney, founder and CEO of Aidin, began his career at Bain & Company in New York working with Fortune 50 companies in tech, finance, and consumer products. In 2011, Russ led the sale of his private equity firm’s largest investment, a case management services company. He then left private equity to build Aidin when his uncle was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.