In 2015, the specialty drug market size was about $100 billion, of which infused drugs made up $35 billion and outpatient infusion therapy consisted of about $10 billion, or 10% of the total. By 2026, the specialty pharmaceuticals market is expected to be worth over $568 billion. These figures predict a strong market for infusion therapy and specialty drug administration. So, why do infusion centers still face an uphill task with growth and profitability? One of the reasons for that is that these infusion centers are still run inefficiently with lots of wasted time and resources. If you are going to attract patients and increase profits, you need to optimize time management and costly resources at your infusion center. After all, it is a growing and competitive sector of the healthcare industry. Managing time and resources will have significant gains for the patient experience and your bottom line. Here are some examples of how to accomplish this:

1. Increase Infusion Therapy Efficiency: Assess and Optimize Clinical Processes

Lean and Six Sigma methodologies used for business efficiency have been part of nursing management and healthcare for some time now. The goals are similar in nursing as they in business:

  • Improve the safety and quality of care.
  • Use of simple, standardized checklists.
  • Rapid response to defects (e.g., mislabeled medication).
  • Elimination of activities that do not provide value.
  • Developing Lean ideas for more efficient operations without reducing quality.

A Lean Six Sigma focus can optimize workflows carried out in infusion centers. But first, a complete assessment and evaluation of current processes is warranted to identify bottlenecks and areas of improvement.

For example, infusion nurses frequently wear many hats including housekeeping. By hiring ancillary staff to support nurses, you can improve efficiencies and let “nurses be nurses”.

Lean Six Sigma identifies processes involving wait times, patient and staff movement, inventory utilization, and other processes that may be identified as opportunities for improvement to maximize efficiency. By improving the areas identified, infusion teams will spend less time per patient, streamline workflow, and improve patient and nursing satisfaction.

Example of Six-Sigma Optimization: Standardized Patient Placement

The American Society of Clinical Oncology published an article about how one infusion therapy center improved patient placement by taking simple measures. Before the transformation, nurses chose their own patients and only took two at a time. This was highly inefficient and caused inequities between the nurses.

The team changed to a patient placement system that assigned patients based on the nurse’s skills, patient’s acuity, and average waiting times. By the end of the transformation, the center saw its rate of patients seen within 15 minutes rise from 69.8% to 85.3%.

Using Lean thinking, you can brainstorm with key stakeholders (Nursing, Pharmacy, Registration, and Environmental Services) and figure out which processes are the least efficient and where efficiencies can be optimized for the whole team and patient’s benefit.

2. Invest in Patient Scheduling and Preauthorization

A study conducted at an outpatient infusion center specializing in chemotherapy infusion spent up to 90% of their time in preparation of drug agents, room setup, and other related tasks.[1] But patients experienced long wait times while waiting for their insurance preauthorization to be verified in addition to the infusion room set up . An infusion therapy center is meant to be much more efficient than a hospital visit by saving at least fifty percent of the time to provide services. And if you are inefficient, you run the risk of losing patients to competitors. There are currently more than 1,500 infusion centers across the country. Investing in robust technology enables efficient patient scheduling, fast pre-authorization, and better overall preparation resulting in a more streamline pre-procedure process and shorter patient arrival to treatment times that maximize efficiency.

3. Manage Teams and Space Efficiently

Preparation and scheduling are important in managing patient waiting times, but someone still needs to prepare the various agents prescribed for each patient beforehand. This is where efficient team management can help. Infusion therapy centers prefer to keep a skeleton staff on payroll to minimize overhead, which can make sense because margins are low. However, you can save a lot of time and money by having additional preparation rooms and pharmacists working to prepare drug agents full time.

If you cannot afford full-time pharmacists, even a part-time PharmD can prepare the most sensitive and hazardous drugs and oversee the development of safe practices for the nurses to follow for the more routine and less complex infusions.

4. Reduce the Risk of IV Therapy Problems

Nurses can spend a lot of time working to correct and reverse the effects of IV therapy complications. Some of the most common problems infusion therapy nurses experience are preventable:

  • Phlebitis/vein inflammation – An improperly secured cannula or one that is too big for the vein in use can cause inflammation with signs such as swelling, pain, warmth, and redness.
  • Extravasation/leaking – a cannula that is not inserted properly or that has been disturbed from its initial position can cause the IV fluid to leak into the surrounding tissue causing a burning sensation and swelling
  • Air embolism – Proper hydration and proper IV administration should minimize this risk
  • Hypervolemia – Increased blood volume levels, especially in high risk populations such as pregnant women, young children, or people with preexisting conditions.
  • Improper insertion site disinfection prior to insertion can pose an increased risk of infection.
  • Hematoma – when the needle goes through more than one wall of the vein, blood can leak into surrounding tissue

When complications are reduced and/or eliminated, both patient and nurse satisfaction increases. SealSkin Medical Wrap can help:

How SealSkin Medical Wrap Helps With Time Management in Infusion Therapy Centers

SealSkin medical wrap is a transparent, self-adhering, and waterproof film that you can use during infusion therapy to keep lines and IV cannulas secure. This significantly reduces the probability of dislodgement during patient care activities. And when patients feel safe and secure, they worry less about dislodging their IV lines and can relax and focus more on regaining their health.

SealSkin medical wrap is very easy to use and affordable so that minimal resources will be required for training and implementation. Learn more about how SealSkin Medical Wrap can make your life as a nurse working in an infusion center easier and save you time.