We were thrilled to host the recent Johns Hopkins Medicine International Partners Forum, an annual meeting that brings together leaders, care providers and researchers from our nearly 20 affiliates in 15 countries. Looking at the past 20 years of my involvement with Johns Hopkins Medicine International when these relationships developed, this is an event I cherish.

Through panels, presentations and networking, we get a window into the issues that are on the minds of health care leaders in different regions and to discover what we all have in common. Perhaps most importantly, this event gives us a joint platform to share our thinking on how to face the challenges inherent in a field constantly in flux.

To complement the theme of this year’s Partners Forum, “The Evolution of Health Care,” let’s examine some of biggest ideas percolating in the health care environment today.

Optimizing Patient Flows
Despite our best efforts, delays and cancellations are still common across health systems. Patients and providers have grown to assume that waiting is an inevitable, but regrettable, part of the care process.

For years, hospitals responded to delays by adding resources—beds, buildings or staff—and they used payment for services to cover the costs. This “solution” actually fed the problem, doing little to increase efficiencies or to decrease the cost of care.

Today, few patients or organizations can afford this solution. Research shows that delays are typically not a resource problem but rather a flow problem. In response, health systems around the world are starting to use interactive, transparent data to streamline operations and make the most informed decisions for patients and their care. This has been shown to increase patient satisfaction and provision of optimal care with great operational efficiency.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital has launched the state-of-the-art Judy Reitz Capacity Command Center, which combines the latest in systems engineering, data analysis and innovative problem-solving to better manage the movement of patients in and out of the hospital.

About 25 staff members receive real-time and predictive information to resolve bottlenecks, limit patient wait time, coordinate services and reduce risk. They know when there is an influx of patients coming into the hospital, which hospital units need additional staff members, the number of patients being treated, the availability of beds across the hospital, the highest-priority admissions and discharges, among other key operations data points.

To me, the large panels of computer screens on the walls of the command center, shown in the photo above,  look similar to the ones Saudi Aramco, our joint venture partner in Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare, uses to track logistics on its many oilfields and ports.

Representatives from health systems across the United States and from other countries have visited Johns Hopkins' command center to gain insights into patient flows and efficient provision of care.

At Tawam Hospital, one of our affiliates in the United Arab Emirates, it had been typical to discharge patients late in the day. Less than 10 percent of patients left for home before noon. This timing aligned with the patients’ preference, which is a good thing, but it also resulted in high occupancy rates and delayed other patients’ access to beds and timely care.

Tawam adopted rapid discharge, a practice model to maintain quality while reducing cost. As a result, the hospital has seen a dramatic improvement in patient management and reductions in costs—all while maintaining quality of care.

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