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Hospital Logistics – Accelerating the Patient Flow in Danish Hospitals

For more than a decade hospital productivity has been a priority in Denmark. A focus on quality and quality improvements has reduced the rate of re-admittance to Danish hospitals and a demand from central authorities on hospitals to increase their productivity by 2% every year, has during recent years resulted in a lot of new initiatives and innovations. With a re-organization of the Danish hospital structure, this has led to a total productivity increase of 30% since 2003.
 The concept of Hospital Logistics and Solutions to improve logistics and create just-in-time scenarios in hospitals is another factor behind the productivity increase which is further explained in this article.
 Healthcare systems around the world are challenged by an increased share of elderly citizens and chronically ill patients as well as more expensive forms of treatment.
These factors are causing a significant demand pull in terms of treatment needs as well as expectations, which accentuate the need for our healthcare systems to work smarter on all levels. Therefore, hospitals need to consider means to increase efficiency and productivity in order to be able to treat more patients without increasing costs.
For more than a decade, Danish hospitals and companies have worked together on improving logistics in hospitals. The overall aim has been the creation of just-in-time solutions in order to optimize coordination and efficiency and reduce the patients’ length of stay.
In Denmark, the focus on hospital logistics has played an important role in achieving a 30 pct. increase in hospital productivity since 2003. Optimizing hospital logistics within different areas of hospital services and needs, including supply logistics, clinical logistics, sterile goods and sample logistics can accelerate the patient flow and lead to increasing hospital productivity.
‘Just-in-time’ logistics
Innovative hospital logistics solutions are already implemented in Danish hospitals in order to reduce delays and waiting in order to speed up the patient flow.
At the New Aarhus University Hospital, a fine-meshed IT system will enable real-time localization of people and equipment right down to room level.
At Aalborg University Hospital, the introduction of a similar and new solution has resulted in a close to 20 pct. efficiency increase.
Danish solutions for just-in-time logistics include systems for locating and tracking staff and equipment, solutions for automating basic and repetitive tasks, as well as solutions for guiding patients around the hospital, all of which help avoid delays and peak times in the hospital process.
 Sample logistics
Accelerating the patient flow is also about reducing the time from taking a lab test and until the result is ready at the point of care.
At Hospital of Southern Jutland in Aabenraa, the number of patients has increased by 13 pct., but with the new sample logistics solution, the hospital has managed to cope and even reduce the average length of stay.
Intelligent solutions for handling samples help hospitals reduce their sample turnaround-time and subsequently speed up patient diagnostics. Fully automated laboratories improve sample flow by handling and sorting all blood samples without any manual handling, thereby minimizing the risk of errors and freeing up time for value-adding tasks such as patient related work.
 Sterile goods and sample logistics
The Capital Region in Denmark will centralize all handling of sterile goods at two departments at Rigs Hospitalet and Herlev Hospital. With fully automated handling of sterile equipment, the two centers will improve hygiene and reduce the risk of infections. At the same time the budget for purchasing and storing sterile equipment will be reduced because of the just-in-time solution.
 The future
Integrated logistics is the next step. Automatic delivery of medicine from the hospital pharmacy directly to the wards and just-in-time housekeeping, based on the hospital discharge system, is already a reality in Danish hospitals.
Storage space, which is built directly into the hospital walls, will prioritize short walking distances, large coherent clinical areas and patient related functions.
Denmark is in the process of building 16 new highly specialized hospitals that are all constructed as hospitals of the future, taking into account the changing role of hospitals in our future healthcare system. While optimal hospital logistics is important for all existing hospitals, it is vital for the new, large and specialized hospitals.

Hans Erik Henriksen

Chief Executive Officer

Healthcare Denmark