ER Diversion Rates have long been used as a tool to help alleviate pressure on ER departments that are at capacity.
In recent years, those diversion rates are climbing as demand for ER services increases while the supply of care is decreasing. The results are a reduced quality of patient care and – as a consequence – a higher risk to the patient, a reduced staff morale, and higher staff stress levels. Added to this is the fact that diversions represent revenue literally going right out the door – or not even making it to the door, in many cases.
While it is easy to say that ER diversions are an ER-specific problem, they aren't. ER overcrowding is indicative of hospital-wide problems such as insufficient staffing, tedious admitting procedures, poor communication and inefficient cross-department coordination to name just a few.
What Can Be Done?
While there are many factors that can play into reasons into ER diversion rates, one that stands out among the rest is insufficient staffing levels. The number of staff directly correlates to the number of inpatient beds available, admitting capabilities and the delivery of services for ER patients and inpatients alike.
While it would be easy to say "just hire more staff" the reality is not that simple. Labor costs have a huge impact on hospital profits and profit margins are tight enough already. Some hospitals simply can't afford to hire more staff. Others can't find staff with the specific qualifications they need. As patients spend less time in the hospital and more time in outpatient centers or rehabilitative care facilities, hospitals have a need for highly specialized healthcare professionals, who are rare in number.
Breaking the Cycle
Hospitals are currently stuck in a vicious cycle of chronic understaffing coupled with increasing demand for ER diversion rates. While more patients would equate to more revenue which can, in turn, lead to greater staffing, there is the small problem of breaking the cycle to start making the changes that will help the overall situation.
One way to start is to embrace the communication opportunities that mobile technology offers. Devices and apps that allow busy managers to see and manage staff schedules on-the-go can help ensure appropriate staffing levels across the organization. By sharing staffing schedules within and across departments, hospitals can begin to strategize staffing on a macro level. Additional staff can be pulled from other duties with a quick glance at the schedule and communication about the changes can go out immediately to everyone on the team, no matter what their physical location.
Although shift management doesn’t fix the problem of understaffing, it can help hospitals and departments manage those peak times. If shift management can help hospitals weather their busiest times of day, imagine what it can do organization-wide. It may even allow hospitals to reverse the costly trend of ER diversions and overworked staff.