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February 27, 2024

How Patient Transport Improves Hospital Operations

What Is Patient Transport?

There are two types of patient transportation. One refers to moving patients to and from medical facilities in non-emergency situations (also called motor vehicle operations). The other refers to the transport of patients who may be unable to walk within a facility to receive tests, undergo procedures, or be discharged.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the latter definition — the moving of patients within a facility or hospital and how a centralized patient transport program efficiently achieves this.

Meet Patient Flow, HHS' centralized, tech-enabled patient transport program

Why Is Patient Transport Important?

For a hospital or medical facility to perform at its best, every piece of the puzzle must seamlessly work together, including patient transportation. Though it may not always be top of mind, patient transportation is vital to a hospital’s operational success.

Patient transportation directly impacts throughput, which is how effectively a patient moves from arrival to discharge. A good transport program improves throughput by keeping diagnostic imaging and operating rooms running on schedule and efficiently discharging patients.

Optimizing patient throughput helps reduce wait times, improve the patient experience, and maximize revenue.

Common Challenges Faced by Hospitals Without a Patient Transport Team

Many hospitals often lack a dedicated patient transport team and instead rely on nurses or medical staff to move patients. Though it may seem more operationally and financially efficient — after all, this approach requires less staff — it can actually create a domino effect of costly issues. 

It takes nurses and medical staff off the floor and away from their main priority: caring for patients. This creates a trickle-down effect that impacts throughput, nursing and patient satisfaction, and, ultimately, revenue.

For example, when nurses are responsible for transporting a patient when discharged, any nursing staffing shortage will cause bottlenecks or delays in the throughput process.

This can tie up bed availability and affect patient placement from direct admits, resulting in long wait times in the ED or PACU. Often, these delays force hospitals to divert resources or cancel or postpone surgeries, hurting their financial viability. These bottlenecks cut into a hospital’s operational flow and result in patient dissatisfaction. 

Ultimately, clinicians struggle to keep pace and provide a great patient experience.  As more and more of their time is spent away from the bedside, they experience burnout and frustration, which only exacerbates the problem.

How a Patient Transport Team Can Help

By implementing a centralized patient transportation program as a patient throughput solution, hospitals can help reduce the burden on nurses and medical staff, improve throughput, increase patient satisfaction, and maximize revenue.

Decentralized vs. Centralized Patient Transport

In a decentralized model, transporters belong to one unit; for example, a transporter for the MRI department. A decentralized transporter will bring patients to and from their MRI, but while the MRI is being performed, which can sometimes take up to an hour, the transporter has nothing to do and therefore is unproductive. 

In a centralized model, transporters are trained in all hospital areas and can remain productive while scans and tests are being performed. While one patient gets an MRI, their transporter can go to the emergency room to admit another patient. 

This eliminates the unproductive time of transporters found in the decentralized model and increases the overall throughput of all departments at the facility, providing many benefits. These benefits include an increase in:

  • Bed availability
  • Radiology scans that can be performed
  • Number of surgical cases
  • The facility’s overall profit margin


4 Tips for Success with Patient Transport

With a team of transporters dedicated to moving patients, facilities can work to overcome the challenges of relying on nurses to do the job.

  1. Use technology to receive and respond to transport requests quickly and efficiently. BedWatch Transport Control is a good example. It uses cloud-based crowdsourcing technology similar to what leading brands like Uber and DoorDash use. Medical staff simply enter a request, and a patient transporter will quickly arrive to move a patient to their designated destination.
  2. Use data to staff the appropriate number of patient transporters when your hospital is busiest. This flexible, data-driven staffing model keeps team members productive, prevents bottlenecks, and helps you avoid overstaffing and unproductive labor hours.
  3. By leveraging technology and data-driven staffing, centralized patient transport programs can help keep departments like the OR and diagnostic imaging on schedule, reducing patient wait times and increasing patient satisfaction. This can also lead to high satisfaction among surgeons and medical staff, who rely on facilities to run on time so they can perform successfully.
  4. Freeing nurses of patient transportation responsibilities and giving them more time to care for patients can help increase nursing satisfaction and combat high turnover rates. This also leads to better nurse-to-patient ratios by keeping nurses on the floor and at the bedside — not transporting patients throughout a facility.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2022 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Meet Patient Flow, HHS' centralized, tech-enabled patient transport program

Tag(s): Healthcare

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