Tools & Techniques

Patient Flow Analytics Frequently Asked Questions

Written by:
Qian Huang

What is Patient Flow?

Patient flow refers to the movement of patients through their health and care journeys. It can be from the point of initial contact with a healthcare provider to the point of discharge or transfer to another level of care. Patient flow includes all aspects of the patient's experience, such as waiting times, administrative and clinical processes experienced and the effectiveness of care.

By understanding patient flow, healthcare providers can identify bottlenecks and other issues that may be causing delays, harm and/or poor experiences for patients. The appropriate actions and resources can then be allocated to address the relevant issues.

Managing patient flow is therefore an important aspect of healthcare delivery, as it can impact the quality and safety of care, the efficiency of the healthcare system, and the overall patient experience.

What is Patient Flow Analytics?

Patient flow analytics is the use of data and analytical tools to understand and improve the movement of individual patients through their health and care journeys.  It provides patient centric insights from the analyses of information within each patient journey, including information about the events in the patient journey, patient demographics, diagnoses, treatment, and outcomes.

The objective of patient flow analytics is to continuously improve patient flow by identifying trends and patterns in patient journeys and understanding how each component of the patient journey impacts patient flow.


Photo by Rabie Madaci on Unsplash

What insights can Patient flow analytics reveal?

Patient flow analytics can reveal a range of insights. Some of the key insights include:

1.    Identifying trends and patterns in patient journeys, such as common diagnoses or treatment patterns, that can be used to improve care and outcomes.

2.    Identifying bottlenecks and other issues that can cause delays or inefficiencies in patient journeys, such as duplicated process steps or a shortfall in capacity against demand in a specific process step.

3.    Identifying exceptions to improve the management of risk to patients or poor use of limited resources due to unwarranted variations

4.    Identifying opportunities to improve the co-ordination of right care for patients at the right time across multiple health and care setting to optimise outcomes

5.    Assessing the impact of different interventions on patient flow, such as changes to the healthcare system or new treatments, to improve care and efficiency.

6.    Providing valuable data for continuous quality improvement, by identifying areas for improvement and tracking progress overtime.


What tools are needed to analyse patient flow?

The tools needed to analyse patient flow include data collection and analysis tools. Other tools that may be useful for patient flow analysis include statistical software, data visualisation tools, and modelling and simulation tools.

To effectively analyse patient flow, healthcare providers need to collect data on a range of factors that can impact patient flow, such as patient timestamped event data, patient demographics, diagnoses, treatment, outcomes and resources required to deliver care.

Typically all the data required to do patient flow analytics has already been captured by each organisation and all that is needed is for it to be assembled. A patient key, like an episode or NHS number makes this possible. Once the data has been assembled it can then be anonymised for analytical purposes.


How do process mining techniques help when analysing patient flow?

Process mining is a type of data analysis that uses timestamped event data from a variety of sources, such as patient administration records, electronic patient records and other healthcare intervention records, to visualise patient journeys.  

Commissioners and providers of health and care can gain valuable insights into the movement of patients through their journeys, assess the effectiveness and timeliness of interventions and identify factors that may be contributing to delays, inefficiencies and safety risks to patient journeys.


What are the additional benefits of improving patient flow?

Organisations invest a huge amount of time and resources to manage patient flow.  Most organisations would like the ability to deliver consistent high quality of care, increase efficiency in the delivery of services and achieve good patient feedback on their overall experience of care.

With patient flow analytics, organisations will have access to additional benefits that include the ability to improve equality of access and patient safety.

By analysing patient event data alongside patient demographic information, healthcare providers can identify factors that may be impacting access to care for certain groups of patients. For example, patients who live in deprived communities have much longer journey times because they cannot afford to take time off work or access transport.

Patient flow analytics also enables every single patient journey to be analysed and interrogated which can highlight poor and unsafe practices instantly. For example, the instant discovery of a cohort of patients under the care of a generic locum consultant code having longer waits than patients with a named consultant code.

Logan Tod & Co are strategic partners to AnalystX supporting the discovery and application of new analytical techniques within the NHS to solve relevant health and care challenges. Patient Flow analytics have been successfully applied to improve elective patient flow, discharge to assess coordination, complex Mental Health patient coordination and diagnostic centre patient flow.

In 2023, we will be looking to apply patient flow analytics to theatre flow, inpatient flow and cancer pathway management. If you have a patient flow challenge you are looking to address and think we can help, please get in touch with us via our website or on AnalystX.