Bottleneck buster

Innovative bed-management software enhances patient flow

Oculys and staff

The image illustrates what health-care providers working at the Grace Hospital can see when they tap into the Oculys Performance bed-management system.

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, July / August 2016

A new bed-management software system implemented at the Grace Hospital earlier this year is already starting to pay off, officials say.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority rolled out the new Oculys Performance program in February, following five months of testing.

The software is designed to track bed usage and patient activity in various departments at the Grace in real time, allowing staff to better manage the flow of patients through the hospital. This, in turn, leads to enhanced delivery of care in various departments, including emergency, says Krista Williams, Chief Nursing Officer for the Grace.

“Oculys is a visual tool that shows staff what’s happening in the hospital,” says Williams, one of several leaders for implementation of the software program.

Prior to its inception, staff would spend a lot of time making phone calls and looking at various data sources to determine patient activity, admissions and discharges. By the time this information was collected to make decisions, it was already outdated.

But with the new system in place, staff can access key information including emergency wait times, admissions, discharges, bed availability and more into a simple data set that provides real time information on all key areas of the hospital.

“Very quickly, you can see how busy the hospital is, which allows us to shift resources around to match the demand,” she says. “The result is bottlenecks in the system are eliminated and people get the service they need in a more timely way.”

Although it is still too early to draw any definitive conclusions about how much of an impact the Oculys software will have on reducing wait times, the early results are promising, says Williams.

For example, data indicate that the wait time for an inpatient bed at the Grace last April was 57 per cent lower than the same month in the previous year. In addition, the average length of stay in the emergency department in April improved by 20 per cent, when compared to the year previous.

Staff members at the Grace say Oculys has been so useful, they don’t know how they functioned prior to its introduction.

“We were managing our resources without having all the information we needed to make timely, effective decisions,” says Rachel Ferguson, Chief Administrative Officer at the Grace and one of the project’s leaders. “Oculys allows us to see exactly what’s going on in the hospital now – even if we’re not there. I couldn’t imagine not having it now.”

The Region decided to pilot Oculys at the Grace last October. Working closely alongside project leads Williams and Ferguson were change agents Pat Biglow and Shelley Keast.

Oculys works by collecting data from three key databases: Medworks, the Emergency Department Information System, and the Admission, Discharge, and Transfer System. The system can be accessed via desktop and laptop computers located throughout the hospital in every department, including emergency, surgery, medicine and mental health. Hospital management is also able to access the program on their handheld devices, so they can keep an eye on what is going on at the hospital when they are off site or on call.

Following the successful launch at the Grace in February, the Oculys program was implemented at Victoria Hospital in June, and is expected to be in all other hospitals within the Region by the end of the year.

While the software was developed by an Ontario-based company, staff at the Grace helped design the user interface and determine what type of data would be collected, says Williams.

“The tool we developed has shaped the framework for all other hospitals within the (Region), so we made sure it would be easily adapted by other sites,” she says. “The challenge was trying to make it as user friendly for staff as possible. Engaging the right staff during the development was key to our successful implementation.”

The process of implementing Oculys wasn’t without its surprises, says Ferguson.

For example, prior to the implementation of Oculys, management thought they knew where certain bottlenecks in the system were occurring. “But with Oculys, we discovered many new issues that we were unaware of,” says Ferguson.

One of the main benefits of Oculys is that it has empowered staff to work more collaboratively to address issues dealing with patient flow, says Williams.

“In the past, everyone worked in silos,” she says. “Oculys helps integrate critical information into one source and helps us gauge big picture performance of the patient journey.

Holli Moncrieff is a Winnipeg writer.

Wave: November / December 2015

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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