Health services in Trinidad: throughput, throughput challenges, and the impact of a throughput intervention on overcrowding in a public health institution

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2018-02-20

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Abstract Background Throughput might be partially responsible for sub-optimum organisational and medical outcomes. The present study examined throughput and the challenges to ensuring optimum throughput in hospitals, and determined the effectiveness of a throughput intervention in reducing overcrowding in a public healthcare institution in Trinidad and Tobago. Methods First, a literature review of throughput and its processes in relation to improving hospital care was conducted. Second, the challenges to throughput in healthcare were reviewed. Data were also collected from print media, hospital records, and the central statistical office in Trinidad and Tobago to discuss throughput and describe the throughput status in hospitals. Finally, the effect of a throughput intervention on overcrowding was determined. The intervention was implemented over six months, from October 2010 to March 2011, and comprised three stages of a five-stage throughput process: transferring patients to a specific medical ward, bedside electrocardiograms (ECG), and promptly obtaining patient investigative reports and patient files. Results Problems with the throughput process led to prolonged delays or failures in obtaining lab reports, radiology services, ECGs, and pharmaceutical supplies, as well as inadequate social work services and other specialised services. During the throughput intervention, there was a reduction in overcrowding/overflow to 5–10 patients per day with a daily admission rate of 58. However, at post-intervention, there was increased overcrowding/overflow to 20–30 per day but fewer admissions (52 per day) i.e. similar to pre-intervention period. Additionally, there was an increase in bed complement in the department of medicine from 209 (2011) to 227 (2012). Overcrowding continued into 2016 and beyond: medical admissions in 2016 were 46.4 per day and the medical bed capacity was 327 (indicating a 44% increase in capacity from 2012). Conclusion Hospital throughput processes are currently suboptimum. Improving specific throughput processes or targeting the greatest primary constraints might help decrease overcrowding.

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BMC Health Services Research. 2018 Feb 20;18(1):129

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