Acute Care Inpatient and Observation Patient Throughput

Improving Flow


Number of inpatient admissions (including observations) per week

(Note: Observations are patients who are admitted, but stay less than 24 hours. Medicare has specific criteria for which diagnoses need to be observation

While it is important to establish a throughput goal, each organization needs to determine an appropriate target. A throughput goal could be based upon financial need, existing or new patient demand, or a desire to increase volume for a specific service line or specialty.

  • Increase throughput by 10 percent of acute care admissions by June 2004.
  • Increase throughput in the operating room by 15 additional cases a week by December 2004.
  • Increase cardiology admissions by 20 percent by September 2004.


Data Collection Plan

Measuring the number of inpatient admissions per week over time will show how changes are affecting overall throughput. As flow through the acute care setting is improved, total throughput of patients should be maintained or increased as patients are able to be placed more appropriately, moved more quickly, and discharged in a timely fashion. Throughput can be an important measure to reference in speaking to senior leaders about the business case for improving patient flow.
Throughput data can usually be collected through existing hospital financial or admissions information systems. Count the total number of inpatient and observation patients admitted to the hospital per month. You may wish to segment the data if you have specific service line or population targets for increased admissions. Throughput measures are generally slow to change, so monthly data collection is sufficient.
Sample Graph



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