Anyone who has ever spent time in a hospital waiting room while a loved one is having surgery knows how stressful it can be. Not knowing how the surgery is progressing—whether the patient is waiting to begin the procedure, is in the operating room or has been moved to the recovery room—can increase that stress exponentially. Often, hospital personnel lack the time to respond to frequent requests for updates from family members and friends. That was the case at Canada's largest trauma center, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, in Toronto, which has approximately 13,500 surgical patients annually.
"We did a survey in the waiting rooms, and they made a lot of comments about access to information and how helpful it would be to them if they could see where their patient was and not to have to keep asking somebody," says Ellie Lee, the business manager of Sunnybrook's OR Information Management Services (ORIMS) department. "They want to ask every five seconds, but they're afraid they'll annoy hospital staff if they do."
Sunnybrook's bed-management process used what Lee calls an "archaic system," in which administrators would review system updates at midnight to calculate how many beds were filled. The accuracy of the count depended on how well nurses updated patient information, which included assigning beds and discharging patients. But busy nurses caring for surgery patients sometimes left record-keeping until later. "Patient care is their first priority," she says.
In addition, some surgery patients who recover enough to safely go home choose to check out late in the evening, prior to or just after midnight. Therefore, Lee says, using "midnight census" to determine bed utilization could never return an accurate picture.
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