Patient volumes and engagement
Most forum participants seemed pleased that patient volumes are back up. It was unclear if there are still patients lost to follow-up or in need of outreach. Most of the group did not think so, yet several said that volumes are still at least 5% lower than pre-pandemic. There may also still be unidentified care gaps. Several members of the group indicated wellness procedures such as colonoscopies remain down, as do specialist consults. What everyone did agree on was the importance of patient portals and text messages to keep patients engaged and enhance communication.
Operating room analytics
If there is any one area in which this group felt a continued need for analytics, it is operating room management—specifically surgeries, capacity and block utilization. Several participants expressed a need for better tools to optimize OR and procedure schedules and improve block allocations. There seems to be dissatisfaction with both electronic medical record solutions and vendor options. An area of even greater concern is referral management.
One advanced topic was forecasting and predictive analytics. Most forum participants had considered the need to predict patient volumes, occupancy, staffing requirements, surgeries patient delays, and other related measures. Some had attempted it, but there was consensus that most solutions remain reactionary and tactical. Providers are very good at reacting to events, but forecasting situations and preparing for them is beyond their current capabilities. Participants were optimistic that their forecasting abilities will improve in the future, but recognized it as an area where growth is still needed.
Participants also reflected on factors that have helped them succeed so far during the pandemic, including:
Cooperation and collaboration
One important theme of the group was that they have found success not by competing with other providers, but rather by reaching out, communicating and partnering. Community hospitals discussed how, during periods of high demand, they not only arranged to send their critical care COVID-19 patients to more advanced hospitals, but also tried to ease the burden on those hospitals by accepting some of their lower-acuity patients. Other participants discussed how they’ve shared information and resources with local organizations. All expressed a sense of pride in coming together to help their communities.