April 15, 2021

Hospital Transfer Center Software: Essential but Insufficient

When we’re working with health systems to introduce, implement and integrate their hospital transfer center software, it’s not uncommon for users to assume the installation will mark the conclusion of their journey to increasing their referral volume. In truth, it’s only the beginning.


Patients need to be transferred between facilities for any number of reasons. We covered this in a previous article, but in brief, transfers are typically related to capability, capacity, patient request or payor factors.


Software improves this process by optimizing what was once manual and often unplanned. By accounting for fluctuations in volume and care needs based on data, hospital transfer software enables health systems to adjust resources and transfer patterns accordingly while continuing to provide an optimum patient experience.


With hospital center transfer software, you begin to see inefficiencies in your current processes, you can increase referral volume as a result of freeing up bed space faster than ever, and you will be able to identify revenue opportunities that never would have arisen otherwise.


ABOUT has seen firsthand the impact such a solution can have on patient throughput and per-patient profitability. Our solution has historically provided an unprecedented level of control and visibility into intake, inter-hospital and intra-health system transfers, but those aren’t the only movements the patient might experience during their encounters with your health system.


Your hospital transfer center software is essential, but it isn’t sufficient to truly optimize the full experience of patients moving into, through, and out of your health system. For that, you need three additional cornerstones.


A Patient Discharge Software Solution

Thus far, we’ve really only covered the intake of patients and the transfer of patients between facilities within a health system. But it’s important to understand that all those new patients will at some point require discharge, often to a post-acute care (PAC) setting where they can continue their care journey.


It’s here that you reach the current limits of most hospital transfer center solutions and where the systemization of most facilities comes to an end. Decades of the modern American healthcare system have conditioned leaders of hospitals around the country to develop their revenue models around a structure where the provision of care leads to payment. Under such a model, not much thought was given to efficient discharge because, to put it bluntly, there was no profit in it. Models and processes in relation to discharge were often developed haphazardly a result.


But now we’re playing in a different ecosystem, one of Accountable Care Organizations and 30-day readmission windows, one where value-based care is increasingly shifting financial risk to providers, and one where financial penalties are assessed if the patient experiences a setback in their recovery.


And because an increase in patient volume will arise upon optimization of the transfer process, hospitals suddenly find themselves in a race against time to discharge one patient so an incoming patient can fill that bed and that patients are in a care setting where cost best aligns with need. The longer a patient remains in a bed beyond their acuity needs, the greater the risk that an incoming patient will be turned away and revenue lost.


To address this problem, hospitals need to think about software that addresses the discharge of patients as well as intake. They need software that streamlines the referral of patients to acceptable post-acute care centers, such as Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs), Long-Term Acute Care Hospitals (LTACHs), Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities (IRFs), mental health facilities, home care settings and more.


Contact with these facilities and subsequent scheduling of the referral is far too often accomplished via manual means, such as phone calls and faxing. This grinds away all the efficiencies of the patient intake and transfer processes, compromising the successes that had been achieved.


It’s therefore necessary to invest in a solution that brings the automated discharge process under the same roof as the patient transfer center, so that everything can be accomplished at once, with all systems aligned to provide the best experience to the patient and the greatest opportunity for efficiency for the health system.


And there’s another cornerstone that we haven’t yet covered.


Transportation: The Connection Between all Sites of Care

Once a hospital has set up the transfer of a patient, there’s the not-insignificant matter of actually ensuring the patient’s timely and safe arrival to that facility. And there’s not a single transition of care that doesn’t require transportation to move the patient.


This can be more complicated than it initially seems. If a patient has high-acuity care needs, the number of vehicles capable of accepting and quickly and safely transporting that patient is likely low. And the higher the capability of the transport, the greater the cost. So intelligently matching the patient with the most appropriate type of transport is especially important in a value-based care environment.


Upon discharge or transfer to post-acute care, the patient may have a need either for specialty transport like an ambulance, or non-emergency medical transport (NEMT), such as an Uber or Lyft ride. As such, there’s a real need for easy, real-time access to a given territory’s available medical transport units. That way, the discharge team can quickly determine if the vehicle is suitable for a patient’s specific medical needs, and immediately schedule pickup and drop-off.

If this hospital transportation solution exists within the access center, which includes discharge planning, the entire coordinated effort will become more efficient. In this way, transportation is another important cornerstone of a successful overall patient transfer process.


Real-Time Data Analytics for All of the Above

Of course, the software that governs transfers, post-acute discharge and transportation will always be hamstrung if the data from all of these solutions is not tied together and visible for the team to see. Which brings us to the last cornerstone: real-time data analytics.


You need a means of taking data from the disparate systems and unifying it in a single software solution to effect real change across the full continuum of patient care. That’s why integration and interoperability are so very important. If you have three separate systems in place, but they don’t talk to one another, things will fall through the cracks.


In order to maximize your potential for growth and process improvement, these solutions must be united under one “roof.” A full accounting of patient movement through a health system in real-time, with the supporting data recording and analytics to highlight areas of interest, provides unprecedented insights and control, and the opportunity for dramatic process improvements.


With real-time data analytics, you can track patients as they move in, out and around your health system. When there’s a “traffic jam,” say because patients aren’t being discharged from a facility as fast as they need or because transportation is running behind in a geographic area, your analytics software must be able alert you to this roadblock and allow you to shift referrals and resources elsewhere as necessary.


If the data never crosses out of the “transportation” system or the “discharge” system to talk to the interhospital transfer system, this adjustment will never be possible. But with a full accounting of patient movements, analytics draws out the real operational power of your health system.


Four Cornerstones to Success

In review, the four cornerstones of an all-encompassing patient orchestration experience are:


  1. Hospital transfer center software
  2. Post-acute discharge software
  3. Transportation scheduling software
  4. Real-time data analytics into all of the above


With these four essentials in place, your health system will have the necessary controls to elevate revenue capture, clinician effectiveness, and patient outcomes.