Earlier notice. That’s what rural facilities need when it comes to receiving transfers of patients from Saskatoon hospitals.

Team three of the Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge, charged with smoothing the process of transitioning  patients out of Saskatoon hospitals,  took a close look at the rural side of transfers out of Saskatoon hospitals on Friday, February 6 by meeting with rural site leaders from Rosthern, Humboldt, and Watrous.

People on conference call

Representatives from rural sites go through a simulation of a call from a Repatriation Officer setting up transfers.

“It’s not that the system isn’t working at all,” said team lead Cindy Graham. “The new process we are implementing, designed in a rapid process improvement workshop (RPIW) which concluded just last week, is mainly about improving information flow, and making transitions happen more easily. This is a huge opportunity to make things better, to make a transfer happen right when a patient is ready to go, and ensuring their experience with a transfer isn’t impacted due to a lack of timely communication between the hospitals involved.”

Lack of notice is the major hurdle for rural hospitals when it comes to receiving patients, explained Lori Hinz, Director of Seniors’ Health and Continuing Care, who is responsible for four out of the six rural hospitals in the region.

Most of the barriers rural hospitals have to receiving transitioned patients could be solved with more notice from the sending hospital, Hinz indicated. For instance, if they know three days ahead of time that a transfer is likely, they can staff accordingly, complete just-in-time training or ensure the supplies and medications are in place to meet patient needs.

Lack of notice can lead to a lack of medication for a transferred patient. For instance, in December, a patient on a special access drug was transferred out of Saskatoon. Due to the rare nature of the medication, the Saskatoon hospital had none to send to the home hospital with this patient. It ended up taking days for the home hospital to obtain this medication. Situations like this can be avoided with enough advance notice of a patient transfer.

That extra preparation time is a major component of the new process the team is proposing.

The old process has arrangements for a transfer starting when a patient is ready to go. The new process moves that back, giving the appropriate people and facilities three days’ notice that a patient is expected to be transferred. Over the course of the three days, transportation is set up, physicians connect and the transfer is made, with the home hospital ready to receive those patients.

“The end result will be having patients in the right place, at the right time, getting the right care,” said Graham.

The next step is testing the process. Team 3 members, rural site representatives, and the staff who will be involved in the test were working on designing the test, assigning necessary roles  and running simulations on Feb. 6, 2015.

“Everyone’s really excited about this,” Hinz reported. “We feel it’s long overdue. We’ve been asking for changes for a long time. This new system will really improve the process so we can transfer patients in a more timely way. It’s awesome.”

That the team is seeking input from the rural hospitals “feels good,” Hinz said. “We’ve never really been asked what we needed to accept transfers. It’s exciting.”

“It makes us feel more a part of Saskatoon Health Region,” added Holly Srochenski.

“This is a huge opportunity for people to return to their home hospital in a timely manner,” said Joni Olson, the Client Care Coordinator who will be involved in the test.

Part of Olson’s duties are to talk to people who wish to return to the home hospital, and make many of the arrangements.

“Most people want to go back to their home region, or their home hospital,” Olson said, but sometimes the transfers just don’t happen in the timely way. She feels making a standard process will make the patient experience better, and raise job satisfaction levels for those who care for those patients.

For more stories and information about the Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge, visit www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/news.