5 Ways to Reduce Excess Length of Stay

Reducing excess length of stay is a common goal for hospitals and health systems. Reducing the number of extra days that were not clinically needed for a patient to remain in the hospital can reduce costs and also increases capacity to allow room for other patients who are in need of hospital care. A patient’s discharge from the hospital can often be a complex process, but there are a few ways you can work to reduce your excess length of stay.

What is excess length of stay?

Excess length of stay (LOS) reflects unnecessary or avoidable days of a hospital stay that may reflect a LOS that extends beyond the time a patient should have been clinically ready for discharge. It is more meaningful to focus on reducing “excess” length of stay rather than average length of stay because sometimes it is clinically necessary to retain a patient in the hospital.

Here are 5 ways you can work to reduce excess length of stay of patients in your hospital:

Optimizing hospital staff workflows

One thing that can cause a patient to stay in the hospital longer than clinically necessary are your hospital staff workflows. There may be steps in your current workflow process that are causing a delay in a patient’s discharge such as a chest tube removal that was scheduled but not performed because of a communication lapse, resulting in an extra hospital day.  Another example could be waiting for a discussion with a nursing home and a family member that could result in several days delay, because there is not an easy way for case management to arrange this meeting. Evaluating your current workflow process can help identify areas of improvement that can be altered to make your current hospital discharge process more efficient, saving time and money. 

Ensuring proper patient placement

Every patient’s journey is unique. Making sure that patients are placed in the right bed at the right time helps ensure that they receive the best care possible. Depending on a patient’s condition they may require more or less care than others. Optimizing your patient flow and transitions of care to be efficient for time while providing the best level of care possible for patients can be tricky. Regular meetings to check in on the placements of patients, especially after staff shift transitions can be valuable to making sure that your patients are occupying the right bed for their current condition.

Resource allocation

Not only do hospitals have to focus on having the right resources stocked and available, but they must also plan for their ease of accessibility and placement throughout the hospital. Being strategic with the location of medicine, oxygen tanks, or other supplies needed for patient discharge can make a difference in reducing a patient’s excess length of stay. The information brought to surface by Pieces Predict allowed one of our clients to realize that the placement of their oxygen tanks within the hospital was often a discharge barrier that extended the stay of a patient that could be avoided by optimizing their placement.

Predicting at risk patients and identifying clinical and non-clinical barriers to discharge

Knowing which patients have conditions that put them more at risk, such as social determinants of health or pre-existing conditions, allows hospitals to better plan for resources, bed capacity, and more. Technologies like artificial intelligence and natural language processing can help identify and predict patients that are more likely to be at risk by reading a physician’s notes and extracting valuable data from the Electronic Health Record (EHR). Predicting at-risk patients can contribute to reducing excess length of stay, because doctors and nurses are able to spend more time focused on the patient’s care journey and less time analyzing information. These systems can also read notes and do the work of identifying barriers, so that hospital staff do not have to and are able to focus on other tasks.

Building relationships with community organizations

Community collaboration is a powerful tool in reducing excess length of stay. Building relationships with organizations in your community such as rehab centers or homeless shelters expands the resources available to patients who need extra help. Having an unsafe discharge location is a common barrier that prolongs excess length of stay for patients. Making referrals to community organizations can help ease this barrier and reduce a patient’s length of stay.

Whatever your length of stay goals are, Pieces is excited to help you reach them. To learn more about how our solution can make a difference for your hospital or health system, contact us today.