October 29, 2010
Odessa's Medical Center Hospital is experiencing a face-lift in efficiency.
Two Texas Tech industrial engineering professors have collaborated with administrators and nursing staff at Odessa's Medical Center Hospital (MCH) to develop a plan, when fully implemented, which is projected to save the hospital more than $250,000 dollars each year. Through this work, they have been able to introduce efficiencies that make discharge from the hospital easier and will enable most patients to go home sooner.
Jennifer Farris, assistant professor of industrial engineering, and Tim Matis, associate professor of industrial engineering, were asked by MCH chief nursing officer Marlene McAllister to help the hospital improve patient flow, and thereby reduce a backlog that regularly built up in MCH's emergency room (ER).
"When our patients wait at the emergency room we are very concerned," McAllister said, "The flow of patients is a process that industrial engineers are uniquely qualified to address. We have been fortunate at MCH to not only have an ongoing relationship with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, but also the engineers in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering."
Farris and Matis responded with a three-phase approach for solving the backlog problem, saving the hospital money, and saving time for patients.
In phase one, Farris and Matis observed that the backlog in the ER was often due to delays in discharging patients from the hospital.
"We noticed that patients had to wait in the ER for rooms within the hospital to become available," said Farris, "We collected data at MCH and looked at other hospitals' information to set a goal for MCH's future."
In phase two, the Texas Tech researchers sought to understand why it took so long for patients to be discharged from the hospital. Farris and Matis identified sources of significant delay from which Beth Baker, MCH nurse and divisional director of Women's, Children's and Acute Care Services, and Chad Dunavan, telemetry unit director, developed new procedures for the hospital that eliminated unnecessary paperwork and procedures that delayed each patient's departure. This phase, already in implementation, is already helping patients to be discharged more than 40 minutes earlier than before.
"MCH is dedicated to the highest quality of care for our community," Baker said, "The partnership with Texas Tech has been beneficial in identifying needs and changes related to the way our patients flow through our systems. Great patient satisfaction and timely treatment is our ultimate goal. "
"With the changes that we recommended, patients' waiting periods in the ER are much shorter as well," said Farris, "MCH can now place patients into a comfortable room much sooner."
In the third phase, Farris and Matis are working on a system that allows patients to schedule their discharge times.
"If you have been in the hospital before, you may have waited a long time to be discharged," Matis said, "And you might have made arrangements for someone to pick you up. Our system can help match a patient's needs with the departure time. This way, you can plan on going home from MCH at a time that fits into your schedule."
This system involves an intricate network of scheduling and workflows that matches patient needs with staffing availability for the benefit of both patients and the hospital.
Medical Center Hospital is the only full-service hospital in Ector County. More than 60 years ago, the citizens of Odessa saw the need to build a community hospital. Through the years, this 85-bed community hospital has grown to become a 362-bed regional medical center; a teaching hospital; and now a healthcare system including satellite outpatient services and integrated physician services. Serving as the regional referral hospital for the 17 surrounding counties of the Permian Basin, MCH prides itself on obtaining the reputation as one of West Texas' leading hospitals
The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering has educated engineers to meet the technological needs of Texas, the nation and the world since 1925.
Approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 725 graduate students pursue bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees offered through eight academic departments: civil and environmental, chemical, computer science, electrical and computer, engineering technology, industrial, mechanical and petroleum.