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Technology helps to optimize infusion center scheduling

Webinar Writeup: How Nebraska Medicine grew infusion center volumes while keeping wait times under 10 minutes

Kathy Bennett

Content writer for PAN Communications

At the Winter 2021 LeanTaaS Transform Hospital Operations Summit, Becky Duchman, Director of Infusion and Treatment Services at Nebraska Medicine’s Buffett Cancer Center, presented a session on her center’s success with taking a data-driven approach to managing infusion center capacity, including a new approach to optimize infusion scheduling.   

Missed the event? We’ve got the details below, plus the whole recording on the Transform page

The context:
In 2017, Nebraska Medicine Buffett Cancer Center opened an 8-story clinical facility. Its patient services include 108 patient rooms, 56 exam rooms, 6 operating rooms, 39 infusion rooms, radiation oncology services, a resource and wellness center for cancer patients and families, plus 98 research labs. Since opening, the Center has treated 44,812 patients in outpatient clinics. 

Like many infusion centers, the Buffett Cancer Center faced challenges including:

  • Nurses missing breaks and lunches on a regular basis, impacting employee satisfaction
  • Too heavy a workload in the morning/midday period
  • Templates that did not accommodate add-ons

What Nebraska Medicine Buffett Cancer Center did: 

Nebraska Medicine Buffett Cancer Center partnered with LeanTaaS to launch iQueue for Infusion Centers in 2018 with a goal to improve patient access, lessen overbooking and increase capacity without adding FTEs. 

iQueue for Infusion Centers uses predictive analytics to help optimize infusion scheduling. LeanTaaS identified opportunities for the Nebraska Medicine team to better understand their challenges.

Utilizing iQueue’s smart tools to optimize infusion scheduling, they were able to improve accuracy with software that allowed them to see the bigger picture, instead of just hour-by-hour appointments. 

Nebraska Medicine worked with iQueue to optimize and customize their templates. This allowed them to accommodate add ons and appointments that weren’t tied directly to a clinic appointment. Their infusion centers were then able to create an efficient level-loaded schedule for both their patients and their nurses.

The results: 

  • Between October 2020 and October 2021, Nebraska Medicine successfully increased patient volume at one of its main clinics by 12% and completed patient volume by 8% without increasing chair capacity or adding any FTEs
  • Despite an increase in volume, they were able to decrease overall wait times by 20% for an average of only 7 minutes
  • Even during peak rush hour, they saw a decrease in wait times to an average of 9 minutes

Next steps:

With iQueue for Infusion Centers producing results, Nebraska Medicine has plans to expand and improve into the future utilizing this technology. Next steps include:

  • Adding Fast Track Chairs – Utilizing iQueue’s reporting tools, Duchman was able to quickly justify the financial investment necessary to add fast track chairs to their centers. Duchman quickly and easily pulled data to present to Nebraska Medicine’s business committee to defend the pro forma for the new chairs. 
  • Accommodating Continued Volume Growth – For both new and existing chairs, the Center plans to use iQueue to open patient access and continue to drive volume growth.
  • Adding an Acuity Metric to Templates – Nebraska Medicine plans to partner with LeanTaaS to use acuity metrics to improve staff planning.

What others can learn: 

Duchman shared best practices from the experience with implementing iQueue for Infusion Centers and working to optimize infusion scheduling. 

  • Changing culture – It’s hard to move staff away from “the way we’ve always done things.” Work with schedulers so they understand why this new method of smart infusion  scheduling is better for the patient, and then show them the data after. The data shows that the patient can get through more quickly without a lot of wait time, and nurses are more readily available to help them because templates are level loaded and more efficient.
  • Using data to make real-time decisions – Encourage people to use data from iQueue to drive decisions rather than basing it off feelings.
  • Using templates to allow add-ons in an efficient way to keep workloads manageable – Templates are built to help accommodate add ons no matter what the date because they’re so customizable. 
  • Being flexible so the templates can grow and change with the organization – If a center sees a change in volumes and needs to get patients through without increasing wait time, iQueue allows for the flexibility to change templates to fit the new need.

View webinar here, or read a transcript here.

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