Can Predictive Analytics combined with lean principles have an impact on today’s strained healthcare system? LeanTaaS believes that they can by significantly improving asset utilization at hospitals and clinics across the country.
“The reality is that health systems are facing enormous headwinds regarding growing volumes,” says company founder and CEO Mohan Giridharadas. There is a higher volume of patients as the population ages, and their need for treatment grows, but payment for diagnostics and treatments is not always fully reimbursable. The result, he says, is that there may not be enough money for hospitals to extend sites, build new clinics, or buy and accommodate additional equipment. Hospitals “are forced to do more with less,” and they’re not effectively managing and maximizing the assets they already have – to their own detriment as well as that of their patients.
Consider the common scenario of a patient calling a hospital to schedule a test, such as an MRI, only to learn that it will be two or three weeks before the hospital can fit them in. It is a complex appointment that requires a complex machine, so it’s understandable that these tests take time to conduct. But typically, the MRI asset is idle for a good 20 to 30 minutes at a time some ten times a day, Giridharadas says. “The scheduling math of their in-house system is broken. The math of matching supply and demand is complicated and sophisticated,” but in the healthcare system, setting up appointments isn’t as rigorous as it should be. Most hospitals use a typical block schedule – much like setting up player times for tennis courts. That’s deterministic, he says, but medical appointments are random, generally not starting or ending at the times set.
“A deterministic framework doesn’t work well. Assets wind up sitting idle while patients are in the waiting room or waiting weeks for an appointment,” says Giridharadas. Chemotherapy patients may have a 35- to 45-minute waiting room period, for example, not to mention the time they have to spend in the exam room alone as they wait for a series of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals to come through. A visit can add up to 90 minutes with half the time simply spent waiting. “Patients want their disease treated right, and once that’s done, the biggest indicator of satisfaction is shorter wait times.”
LeanTaaS looks to solve this scheduling problem, optimizing block schedules via the development of sophisticated algorithms that leverage EHR data and utilization patterns, lean expertise for balancing flows and level-loading capacity, and scalable software for unlocking capacity. LeanTaaS applies its formula for Predictive Analytics to one asset at a time, because these problems need to be solved in excruciating detail.
More Efficient Scheduling and Asset Utilization
Fifteen major cancer centers in the U.S. are maximizing patient flow and chair access for chemotherapy in more than 100 infusion centers with LeanTaaS’s iQueue for Infusion Centers. That includes:
- New York-Presbyterian, which decreased wait times by 55 percent at peak hours and saw a 17 percent increase in patient volumes;
- UCHealth, which now supports 16 percent higher patient volumes;
- and Stanford Center, which partnered with LeanTaaS to jointly develop the solution and has deployed it at one of its 60-chair centers to create optimized infusion scheduling templates.
“Every iconic cancer institute uses IQueue for Infusion Centers. They can do 15-20 percent more treatments with the same footprint of chairs, number of nurses, and hours of operation, and wait times are down 20-50 percent,” Giridharadas says.
iQueue for Operating Rooms is designed to allocate OR blocks to fit surgeon needs and utilization targets and also balance revenues. The OR, Giridharadas says, is the financial engine of hospitals, generating 40-50 percent of revenues and 50-60 percent of margins. Post-surgery, many patients need hospitalization, so the optimization the solution delivers for the OR has a downstream effect on servicing bed needs more efficiently, too. “In-patient beds are the world’s most expensive hotel rooms at about $2,000 per bed,” he says. It’s a big problem if there is no bed in the right unit on the right floor, so optimizing the length of stay to trend downward opens up opportunities, he says.
iQueue for Operating Rooms is now in thirteen health systems, and its impact includes creating available block capacity for new surgeons. “The systems are so jammed up that a hospital can hire a new surgeon but can’t guarantee them time in the OR,” Giridharadas notes. Operating costs get better because of the ability to better match labor costs with workload and capacity costs. “You don’t need to build more capacity quickly, and you get more patients in, so you get more revenue,” he explains. Unlocking capacity is key to unlocking the virtuous cycle of making judicious investments for the hospital’s and patients’ benefits.
LeanTaaS is now building out its product line to provide its services to ambulatory clinics.
According to Giridharadas, three leading health systems have invested in the company, which releases products every nine to twelve months. “We want to cover eight to ten key assets and dominate the way in which capacity is unlocked” with the help of math, level loading, and software elasticity. That way, hospitals can match the improvement levels that industries like airlines have seen when they brought optimization to bear around passenger issues.
Bringing its technology to the U.S. healthcare system is just a first move in conquering tough issues in a multi-billion dollar market. Other countries are in LeanTaaS’s sights, too. Right now, there may not be as much interest from healthcare providers outside the States, but Giridharadas expects that to change as countries with more socialized healthcare services experience an increasing backlash from their own populations. Patients in such countries are getting tired, for instance, of waiting nine months for essential services like hip operations. “These countries keep a tight rein on spending, but if you told them you could get 25 percent more throughput without spending more money, they’d be interested,” he says.
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