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Article January 10th, 2024

by Mikko Lehto, Business Area Head of Government & Health

Hospital occupancy rates can be multiplied by space resource management and optimization

The average occupancy rate for outpatient clinic rooms in older hospitals located in well-being services counties in Finland can currently be as low as 20%. This means an admission room may remain empty for up to four out of five working days per week. If the occupancy rate were closer to the target of 70%, the well-being services counties could redirect the money saved on rent, heating, lighting, and building maintenance toward enhancing patient care.

Two female doctors discussion by laptop

The primary objective of the Finnish social services reform is to provide equal and high-quality services to all citizens. Another crucial aim is to impede rising costs. Both objectives are served by designing modern hospital facilities to provide well-being services and utilizing existing spaces more efficiently. In these facilities, square meters are no longer wasted on corridors, corners, or running idle; instead, the focus is on their efficient utilization.

Efficient square footage management is also connected to changes impacting doctors’ daily routines. In the future, doctors will no longer have their own offices or examination rooms; instead, the number of rooms will be optimized based on patient and reception needs rather than those of the doctors themselves.

Maximizing the effectiveness of reception rooms – daily

Optimizing the number and use of reception rooms begins during the design and construction phase of hospitals – or when the renovation of old hospital buildings occurs. However, the most intricate challenges within this new model arise after the new facilities are operational, where the efficient utilization of the rooms becomes crucial in the daily routines of medical staff. Questions arise, such as the specific requirements for reception rooms in surgical procedures and the ideal space for psychiatric appointments.

Manually managing such a complex system is unfeasible. This is where modern technology steps in. We’re significantly transforming the daily life of multiple Finnish hospitals by employing up-to-date digital tools, specifically Microsoft’s tools in this instance, for space resource management and optimization. Our solution ensures that the most suitable available space is allocated to each patient service.

The jointly developed space resource management solution is a customizable software service tailored to the customer’s needs, thanks to the comprehensive deployment phase of each project. At the onset of this deployment phase, the foundational elements of the customer’s operations are established. This involves determining the range of services offered, the number of available rooms in the entire hospital or a specific outpatient clinic, the total number of on-site professionals, and the allocation of suitable spaces for each service. The suitability of rooms for various services can also be categorized by priority, meaning that spaces best suited for specific services receive priority, with subsequent rankings based on suitability.

In addition to these fundamental parameters, a wide array of customer-specific rules can be incorporated into the solution. For instance, for one of our clients, we introduced a “two-and-a-half-hour rule,” where a doctor with at least two appointments within a 2.5-hour timeframe conducts these appointments in the same room if the space suits both. This approach considers job satisfaction and well-being factors, mitigating the potential inconvenience of not having a dedicated office.

Optimization can further reduce doctors’ need to move between hospital floors or adhere to a prior model where they consistently serve patients in rooms suitable for their services. The system can also accommodate forced appointments, bypassing the optimization process, particularly in critical special situations.

New solution optimizes space utilization in hospitals and beyond

In hospitals, outpatient appointments are typically scheduled well in advance. The average occupancy rate for outpatient clinic rooms in older hospitals located in well-being services counties in Finland can currently be as low as 20%. This means an admission room may remain empty for up to four out of five working days per week. The newly developed solution optimizes examination room reservations only the day before the appointment is scheduled to take place. This ensures that each appointment is assigned the most suitable space, promoting efficient space utilization and minimizing last-minute adjustments. The system seamlessly transfers all room reservation data to professionals’ Outlook calendars. 

The significant advantages of this solution extend beyond automated space optimization and enhanced room reservation and utilization transparency. It also contributes to forecasting and optimizing future space needs. As the system accumulates historical data regarding service demands, it becomes possible to analyze and anticipate future capacity needs about a specific level of service demand. For instance, the number of referrals issued can serve as a basis for forecasting services and, consequently, facility requirements well into the future. By optimizing space allocation six months in advance, one can anticipate the need for external rentals or offer available space to neighboring units undergoing renovations. These spaces can evolve into a marketplace, transitioning from suboptimal unit management to addressing space-related challenges throughout the hospital. 

With its intricacies, optimizing medical facilities in well-being services counties presents one of the significant challenges in public sector facility management. Similar, less complex, demands exist in various other sectors, however. For instance, renting and managing cultural centers, office spaces, theaters, employment offices, or group workspaces in libraries are tasks often managed manually through Excel or with a booking system that does not allocate and optimize resources and spaces automatically. This frequently results in unnecessary manual labor and underutilized facilities. The newly developed Room Capacity Management solution offers a swift and cost-effective solution to address these requirements. 

Nortal's space resource management solution

Unlock the full potential of your hospital’s reception rooms with our innovative solution tailored for optimal efficiency and seamless workflow.

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Satakunta impact case

The scale of economic savings the wellbeing services county in Satakunta will achieve by the space resource management solution, is illustrated by the fact that if all professionals still had their own offices, the new hospital building would have had to be three times bigger than it is now.

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