Flexing Bed Stock : A Hospital Capacity Management Case Study

Khanna, Sankalp ;   Boyle, Justin ;   Zeitz, Kathryn

As hospitals struggle to meet rising demand for their services, efficient capacity management is critical to the success of their efforts. A popular strategy employed by hospitals to meet the variability in demand for their services is to 'flex' their capacity, i.e. to vary the number of available staffed beds to suit demand on a regular basis. This study uses data from a large tertiary hospital in South Australia to analyze the efficacy of their flexing protocols and the impact of flexing capacity on overcrowding. We also analyze the impact of variation in occupancy on patient flow parameters and compare this to previous studies conducted on similar sized Australian hospitals that do not flex capacity. Our findings reveal that flexing capacity helps the hospital spend less time over critical occupancy levels, and that the hospital does not show the signs of performance decline exhibited by hospitals that do not flex capacity. Areas for improvements in the flexing protocol and possible strategies are also identified. The findings support the use of flexing capacity as an efficient protocol and will serve as a useful guide for services seeking to improve existing capacity management protocols.