Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Principles of capacity management, applied in the mental health context

Kathryn Zeitz A B D and Darryl Watson A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

B Health Outcomes International, PO Box 2065, Glynde Plaza LPO, Glynde, SA 5070, Australia.

C Central Adelaide Local Health Network, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: kmzeitz@onaustralia.com.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH17007
Submitted: 22 January 2017  Accepted: 1 May 2017   Published online: 22 June 2017

Abstract

Objective The aim of the paper was to describe a suite of capacity management principles that have been applied in the mental health setting that resulted in a significant reduction in time spent in two emergency departments (ED) and improved throughput.

Methods The project consisted of a multifocal change approach over three phases that included: (1) the implementation of a suite of fundamental capacity management activities led by the service and clinical director; (2) a targeted Winter Demand Plan supported by McKinsey and Co.; and (3) a sustainability of change phase. Descriptive statistics was used to analyse the performance data that was collected through-out the project.

Results This capacity management project has resulted in sustained patient flow improvement. There was a reduction in the average length of stay (LOS) in the ED for consumers with mental health presentations to the ED. At the commencement of the project, in July 2014, the average LOS was 20.5 h compared with 8.5 h in December 2015 post the sustainability phase. In July 2014, the percentage of consumers staying longer than 24 h was 26% (n = 112); in November and December 2015, this had reduced to 6% and 7 5% respectively (less than one consumer per day).

Conclusion Improving patient flow is multifactorial. Increased attendances in public EDs by people with mental health problems and the lengthening boarding in the ED affect the overall ED throughput. Key strategies to improve mental health consumer flow need to focus on engagement, leadership, embedding fundamentals, managing and target setting.

What is known about the topic? Improving patient flow in the acute sector is an emerging topic in the health literature in response to increasing pressures of access block in EDs.

What does this paper add? This paper describes the application of a suite of patient flow improvement principles that were applied in the mental health setting that significantly reduced the waiting time for consumers in two EDs.

What are the implications for practitioners? No single improvement will reduce access block in the ED for mental health consumers. Reductions in waiting times require a concerted, multifocal approach across all components of the acute mental health journey.


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