SW AHSN Demonstrates Patient Journeys Within Hospital in Flow Hack Session to Improve Patient Care

The South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN) has held its first ‘Flow Hack’ session, using a board game method to help NHS leaders in Somerset understand patient flows through emergency departments.

Hospital Trusts are experiencing a rising number of visits to emergency departments, along with delayed transfers of care. This results in difficulties for patients getting access to care in the right place and at the right time. There are often a reduced number of beds available to other patients who need them and unnecessarily long stays in hospital for some patients.

The aim of the Flow Hack session was to give participants a system perspective of specific challenges or circumstances and encourage constructive, action-oriented discussion with possible solutions.

Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton was used as the scenario. The session required one year’s worth of detailed data from the hospital in order to identify one ‘good’ operating day, one ‘poor’ operating day, looking at individual patient movements. The data used was taken over a 24-hour period and included patient attendances, flow within the hospital and discharges. Data analysis was also conducted for Yeovil District Hospital and the minor injury units of Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Hospital wards were recreated and different coloured cards were used to represent patients within the wards, elective attendances and those attending or admitted to the Accident and Emergency Department. Patient movements were called out minute by minute and participants were encouraged to take responsibility for moving patients around the hospital, but also to observe the dynamics of the system playing out in front of them.

The SW AHSN has been working with Professor Mohammed Mohammed, Professor of Healthcare Quality and Effectiveness, Deputy Director of Bradford Institute of Health Research and the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN who developed this version of ‘Flow Hack’ from the original ‘Flowopoly’ method. The aim was to develop the SW AHSN’s expertise in this ‘systems thinking’ technique so it could be offered to their member organisations across the South West.

Attendees of the session included Somerset Accident and Emergency Delivery Board, including Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Local Medical Committee, Vocare (Out of Hours provider) South Western Ambulance Service, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Yeovil District Hospital and Somerset County Council.

Caroline Powell, Director of Intelligence, SW AHSN said: “The Flow Hack method provides health and care leaders with the space and time to take a system view of patient flow through the emergency care pathway. This method helps these leaders to think about ways of managing capacity and demand and therefore maximising outcomes for patients. Learning from our colleagues in Yorkshire & Humber AHSN has been extremely useful and hopefully some of our adaptions to the method will enhance their approach too. We’re now really looking forward to using this method to support our members.”

Dr Dawn Lawson, Chief Operating Officer at Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, said: “These events have been designed to develop a shared understanding of the issues faced by many teams in hospitals as they work together to provide a quality service for their patients in the face of increasing demand and challenging targets. When processes are designed to provide what patients need when they need it there are significant improvements in patient satisfaction, reduced length of stay and better patient flow. This reduces pressure on urgent and emergency care within the hospital.”

The SW AHSN will work in partnership with its members to support them to deliver Flow Hack sessions to their internal teams, including working with improvement teams to identify, implement and measure potential change activities.

For any more information or to find out how you can get involved in a Flow Hack, please contact anna.coltman@swahsn.com

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