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Airline style integrated operations centre

Mark Spittal

Mark Spittal

Waikato Hospital is getting a bird’s eye view of what happens within the hospital following the introduction of an airline-style Operations Centre.

Waikato DHB looked to airlines for new ways of gathering day-to-day information about how Waikato Hospital is functioning and to improve the effectiveness of patient services.

Waikato is leading the way in the Midland region with the establishment of an integrated operations centre that will co-locate the key staff who manage hospital logistics.

“We have already brought the booking staff and the daily response or duty office team together and the nurse rostering group to work alongside them,” Waikato and Thames hospitals group manager Mark Spittal said.

“Hospitals like ours are large and complex communities and we know that we can treat more patients by getting greater synergy between how we plan admissions, roster staff, and manage barriers to the flow of patients through the hospital on any given day,” he said.

“By bringing operations and planning together we can get a better picture of what is happening now, what has happened in the past and predict what will happen in the future.”

This new way of working has implications not only for the day to day running of the hospital but in planning for unusual events such as the Rugby World Cup, a flu pandemic or simply increased demand during winter.

“While we were very much focused on people, we found that what we were trying to achieve was similar to the way airlines track the safety of aircraft on a long haul flight. At every point along the journey, they can look at what is happening and make changes if they are needed.

“To be able to do this you need one operations centre that knows what is happening in the whole system. We recognised the huge benefits this would have not only for our most vulnerable patients, but all patients in the hospital.

“Waikato Hospital’s new operations centre will allow hospital managers and clinicians to detect any weak spots in the system and correct them more easily. Hospitals are generally great at managing crises but they are so large and complex it is not always easy to see the barriers to how patients flow through the hospital which can have a huge impact on the quantity and quality of services we deliver.

“By bringing our operations and planning teams together we can get a better picture of what is happening now and plan for the future. This is really important for the day-to-day running of the hospital as well as more unusual events such as the Rugby World Cup, a flu pandemic or simply increased winter demand for healthcare,” said Mr Spittal.

Airlines are acutely aware of this and know the repercussions if there is any delay in a plane taking off.

“Hospitals are behind in truly understanding the importance of this and putting processes in place so that they can catch up on daily schedules. Thinking this way has really opened our eyes to the possibilities for the future,” said Mr Spittal.

Once the Operations Centre is operational within Waikato Hospital, the DHB will look at how to use it at a regional level to manage the flow of patients from feeder hospitals in the Midland region. Waikato is also lending a hand to other DHBs with their own systems improvements.

With Waikato’s support, Bay of DHB has for example now co-located operational staff so they can forecast how busy Tauranga Hospital is going to be, how many staff should be rostered to work and predict when there will be any extra strain on the system.

ENDS

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Email: news@waikatodhb.health.nz

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