HIMSS Davies Awards 2018: VCU Health System Streamlines Communications for Patient Discharges

doctor works on tablet at patient bedside

Home to the only comprehensive academic medical center in its region and the sole Level I trauma center for adult, pediatric and burn patients in Richmond, Virginia, VCU Health was regularly at or over capacity for patient admissions. As a result, the health system was routinely on diversion and faced challenges in discharging patients timely and efficiently.

Committed to improvement, the health system worked with a throughput and capacity team on several initiatives aimed at improving communication among providers, patients, and families. The end-goal was to streamline patient discharges while increasing patient satisfaction through the highest quality of care.

Tracking Progress towards Patient Discharges

VCU Health realized that in order to efficiently discharge patients and avoid unnecessary diversion hours, it was necessary to keep an accurate, up-to-date electronic record of bed capacity that the patient care team could access at all times and use to provide regular updates to patients and their families.

To make this possible, the team at VCU Health implemented tracking tools in the operational platform that care teams updated consistently throughout each patient’s stay. In turn, teams could plan for discharges up to 20 hours prior to the actual patient discharge. The tool was set to update a patient’s status automatically to pending discharge at midnight on the projected discharge date. To avoid communicating inaccurate pending discharge dates, the care team was required to make regular updates based on a list of tasks within the platform that needed to be checked off before the health system could discharge the patient.

As a result, VCU Health steadily increased discharges by noon, making room for 1,500 new admissions last year. By anticipating discharge dates more precisely, VCU Health was also able to increase compliance with Medicare discharge standards to over 90 percent and sustained that compliance level over several months. Safe discharges remained the priority during the process redesign, and readmission rates remained stable.

The health system continues to work with these new tools to improve the overall discharge process, aiming to plan for discharges up to 48 hours prior to the patient leaving the facility.

HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence

The HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence recognizes outstanding achievement of organizations that have utilized health information technology to substantially improve patient outcomes and value. The HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence is the pinnacle of the HIMSS Value Recognition Program and highlights organizations promoting health information and technology-enabled improvements in patient and business outcomes through sharing evidence-driven best practices on implementation strategies, workflow design, change management and patient engagement.

“Utilizing information and technology to tackle significant admission rate challenges, VCU Health’s focus on patient satisfaction to improve the discharge process provides a model for other health systems experiencing capacity issues to follow," said Jonathan French, CPHIMS, senior director of quality and value-based care at HIMSS. “For their dedication to improved outcomes in the face of significant population challenges, HIMSS is proud to recognize VCU Health System as a 2018 Davies Enterprise Award winner.”

“The HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence recognizes that technology can help address many of today’s challenges of health care delivery,” said Susan Steagall, chief information officer of VCU Health System. “I view technology as an enabler to achieve high reliability in patient care and improved patient outcomes while optimizing our value equation.”

VCU Health System will be recognized during the 2019 HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition, which takes place February 11-15 in Orlando, Florida.

Learn more about how VCU Health has embraced the value of health information and technology: explore three award-winning use cases.