Mark Figgitt Sep 11, 2020 3:52:03 PM 7 min read

Going with the flow in demand and capacity planning at your hospital

Hospital capacity management is always an issue for healthcare organisations, but it is even more pressing in response to COVID-19. Normally faced with constant pressure to produce better outcomes at a lower cost, healthcare providers now have to factor in unpredictable demand surges with the pandemic.

It makes optimising patient flow more important than ever. Why haven’t organisations been able to make more progress?

Since capacity management is tied to patient demand, few organisations believe they can accurately forecast that demand far enough in advance to be proactive. As a result, many aspects of capacity planning, including staffing, are handled reactively or day by day. Managers are always thinking on their feet, realigning resources on the fly.

This has effects across the healthcare systems. For example, Suzanne Rolls, a professional nursing advisor for New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation states that patients who need to be admitted are getting delayed because of a lack of staff and beds across all areas of hospitals. “When a hospital reaches over-capacity, health professionals may see 40 patients in the day for 12 minutes each which can cause burnout to happen. They are tired and overworked which research calls ‘compassionate fatigue’.

Want to learn more? Download our eBook on capacity planning, 'Forecasting patient demand. Aligning resources. Optimising patient throughput'


Accurately predicting patient demand

What if you could accurately predict patient demand days or even weeks in advance, and align that forecast with capacity, staffing, and resources to help optimise patient throughput?

Capacity Planner™ from HealthStream is a predictive analytics tool that lets you reliably forecast patient throughput far enough in advance so you can align capacity, staffing, and resources with only minor tweaks on any given day. Aligning resources in this way is the key to optimising bed management.

Here’s how it works:

  1. We use a minimum of two years of your historical admissions, discharge, and transfer data to develop a base patient demand forecast for the year.
  2. Healthcare-specific algorithms are applied to the base forecast to account for seasonal and day-of-the-week variations, among others. They also account for factors such as flu season duration and severity, as well as special events like COVID-19 flare ups likely to cause a surge.
  3. Input from your clinical experts is solicited regarding specific changes and initiatives that are expected to impact patient demand. This input is key to reconciling historical experience with emerging care and reimbursement models.
  4. Capacity Planner™ can predict scheduled and unscheduled demand with a 95% accuracy rate one month out and a 97% accuracy rate one week out. The solution leverages that forecast to predict capacity and staffing requirements well enough in advance so that you can proactively address them without scrambling to find available staff with the right credentials.

Capacity Planner™ dashboard lets you view your actual and projected patient demand against capacity and planned staffing. You can quickly see where you will be understaffed or overbedded—and plan accordingly.

How you can improve capacity management

Having the right solution in place enables you to plan over both the long term and short term. Strategic (1–2 year) and budgetary (1 year) forecasts are used for long-term planning based on historical trends.

Any plan is only as good as the assumptions under which it was created—and the ongoing effort to measure performance against it. Capacity Planner™ provides the tools required to monitor progress against your forecast and adjust as necessary to stay on course.

HealthStream’s Capacity Planner™ is here to aid with capacity management and to optimise your organisations’ progress. Ready to start optimising patient flow?


Want to learn more? Download our eBook on capacity planning, 'Forecasting patient demand. Aligning resources. Optimising patient throughput'



Mark Figgitt

Mark Figgitt is the Executive Director for HealthStream Capacity Management in Australia and New Zealand. In addition to his Executive and General Management role, he is also responsible for the global product management and development of Capacity Planner™, and Capacity & Resource Advisor™.