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Fixing Patient Flow: Where’s It Broken?

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There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in a hospital setting, but patient flow isn’t one of them. This plays out in front of every patient and visitor who walks through the door.

Over the years, patient flow has deteriorated to the point of  being a major problem for many hospitals. Becoming so bad in some facilities that patients and providers resign to it being a necessary part of the process.

But the reality is that there are steps that can be taken to improve patient flow and eliminate many of the delays.

Begin by Identifying the Problems

Some of the most common culprits include:

  • Inefficient inpatient and outpatient admission processes.
  • Lack of timely transfer of patients from one unit to another.
  • Bottlenecks regarding patient flow from one facility or station to the next.  

There are times when a hospital-wide problem is slowing everything down. There are also situations in which a single department needs to address a concern that is impacting patient flow throughout the facility.

Find and Implement a Solution

Part of the solution includes assessing the problem itself, groups impacted, and the resources needed for implementing the fix.

Here are some of the best ways to fix patient flow:

  1. Better defining patient destinations. Hospitals must provide guidance in regards to the facility layout. Use better signage and staff information/help desks in the event that somebody becomes lost.
  2. Identify and clear bottlenecks. A bottleneck can happen in many areas of a hospital, such as the patient check-in counter.  

Preventing this problem can be as simple as changing the layout of the room, adding more help, and scheduling patients based on what the area can reasonably accommodate.

  1. Make note of high traffic areas. It goes without saying that some areas of a hospital receive more foot traffic than others.

Answer this question: where do patients often cross paths?

For example, once a patient is checked in they often have to cross paths with  those just arriving.

Implement a system to eliminate patients in different stages from crossing each other’s path.

Another example that many hospitals don’t take into consideration is the fact that patient flow starts in the parking lot. If there aren’t enough parking spots, patients may be late for their appointment. Subsequently, patient flow will suffer.


Did you know that approximately 60 percent of hospitals in the United States are functioning at operational capacity?

With this in mind, improving patient flow is one of the top ways for a hospital to boost its bottom line.

Soriant Solutions is here to facilitate a review of your patient flow and Support Services. Visit us today at  

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