October 30, 2023 | Doug Cundiff, MPT, MPH

3 Minute Read

From Inpatient to Outpatient: 5 Ways to Enhance Your Hospital Therapy Operations

Improve and your hospital’s rehab therapy operations, from outpatient therapy to acute care settings

Hospital Directors of Rehab are medical jacks of all trades. We frequently manage care for a variety of settings and therapy departments from hospital outpatient physical therapy to acute care rehab. On the surface, the goals and requirements for acute care and outpatient settings have drastically different approaches. However, when we look a bit deeper, both settings share a myriad of similar pain points.

We want to dedicate as much time as possible to our patients, but bulky documentation systems and time-consuming manual processes disrupt overall workflow. We ultimately lose precious minutes of every day, though not for lack of trying. It’s time to enhance hospital therapy operations across the board by taking a holistic approach to all departments because if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that better communication helps everyone along the care continuum.

Create Consistency to Improve Therapist Productivity

Each morning, we arrive at work to find a whiteboard brimming with sticky notes and a towering stack of printed orders. By afternoon, the paperwork has dwindled, orders have been assigned, and therapists have received their daily case flow. But midway into the workday, one therapist has walked into an empty room and another has received an angry call from a physician that the patient hasn’t been improving.

We understand first-hand the challenges therapists and Hospital Directors of Rehab face each day to ensure every patient is accounted for and served in a timely manner. And with the hospital’s CEO or COO watching our every move, it can be incredibly overwhelming to attempt to improve productivity while still attending to patient needs. It’s important to take a step back and ask hard questions about the effectiveness of care.

We know it’s difficult to achieve the best patient outcome when therapists are bogged down by so many manual processes, such as sorting through haphazard sticky notes. Instead, identify, create, and adopt consistent processes and documentation across therapy departments. Eliminate gaps in real-time patient information by creating a uniform approach to managing patient data and organizing clinician worklists. By streamlining all processes across the board, every therapist can feel more productive each day.

Promote Continuity of Care Throughout the Patient Journey

From speech-language pathology (SLP) to physical and occupational therapy, both outpatient and acute care settings rely on steady patient attendance. Poor attendance by patients ultimately leads to poor outcomes, and a lack of quality time with patients sadly has the same effect. Hospital therapy operations must promote continuity of care throughout the patient journey to encourage optimal outcomes.

How can we promote continuity of care? By having our finger on the pulse of all patients’ clinical information. Items such as patient order updates and location changes‚ where the patient is and what they need‚ should be integrated into the hospital information system (HIS) to automatically receive updates in real time. Access to this clinical information allows therapists immediate retrieval of patients’ medical records, helping to guide the individual’s continuity of care. Fewer patients left behind, less abandoned plans of care, and more happy therapists.

Ensure Access to Relevant Data and Reporting Across All Therapy Settings

If we asked every therapist or Hospital Director of Rehab to raise their hand if they’ve prioritized data management, chances are, very few hands would go up across the globe. In our work, we  prioritize our patients: what they need at the moment, what they’ll need tomorrow, and how we can create significant functional gains and medical improvement within a reasonable time frame. Unfortunately, focus on patient success means relevant data and reporting can be lackluster across all therapy settings. To improve hospital therapy operations, it’s key to utilize a single source of data management. A single data management solution gathers all Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in one reporting platform, including:

  • Units per day per therapist
  • Length of stay and visits per episode of care
  • Patient attendance and participation
  • Improving Patient outcomes

Effective integration ensures the HIS remains up-to-date with key data, such as clinical documentation results, ADT (Admission, Discharge, Transfer), and billing. Plus, enhanced reporting helps guarantee therapists adhere to physical therapy billing guidelines in both outpatient and acute care settings.

Facilitate Communication Between Therapists and Therapy Departments

Did a therapist end up in another empty room again? Or worse, did a team eat away at labor hours manually updating caseloads in real time, when a solution could have been reached in minutes had there been stronger interdepartmental communication? When Hospital Directors of Rehab juggle acute care settings, outpatient therapy departments, and more, communication between all parties can become complicated, overwhelming, and time-consuming. Instead, a hospital therapy program can significantly benefit from streamlined inter- and intradepartmental communication.

Make it a point to facilitate communication between therapists and therapy departments in a uniform manner. So, instead of sticky notes or printed orders, develop a digital system that can easily transport information between teams. A consistent communication system makes it simpler and more time-efficient to make patient care decisions, such as transfers and discharges. In addition, patient quality of care can improve across the board by keeping the HIS, medical team, and rehabilitation providers informed with timely patient information.

Define and Enhance Consistent Patient Outcomes

Positive patient outcomes provide therapy businesses with a competitive advantage: they’re encouraging, measurable, and easily marketable to consumers and referral sources. Not to mention, they‚Äôre phenomenal for therapist morale — what feels better than a satisfied patient? But did you know consistent patient outcomes can ultimately offer a financial incentive? This objective is especially important for hospitals striving to build and improve value-based care initiatives for hospital acute and outpatient rehab therapy programs. In value-based care programs, it’s key for hospital therapy programs to define and enhance consistent patient outcomes, including:

  • Clinical and functional outcomes, such as improvements in range of motion, strength, and functional activities
  • Operational outcomes, such as chart audits and compliance, documentation of care, and tracking insurance authorizations
  • Patient engagement and satisfaction outcomes, such as positive reviews and patient-to-patient referrals

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