Calculating a Hospital Bed Occupancy Rate

Hospitals have to toe a fine line between efficiency and having the resources available to perform their functions well. There are a number of measures that are considered in determining how a hospital performs, how it needs to perform, and whether its capacity is well-matched with the needs of the community. In this context, beds are used as a way to indicate the hospital's inpatient carrying capacity. A bed refers to all of the staff, services and equipment needed, including a physical bed, to take care of a single patient. Occupancy rate is an important part of bed management.

Static occupancy rate

A simple hospital bed occupancy rate calculation involves simply calculating the occupancy at a given point in time. This calculation doesn't take into account any factors other than the number of patients currently admitted to the hospital versus the number of beds in the hospital overall. This may be further compared against the entire local population or outpatient population in order to determine how this may change and to what degree.

Occupancy rate based on department

While every hospital needs to know its overall occupancy rate, it is also very important to track statistics for specific departments. Hospitals offer many specialized services, including various types of surgery, care intensities and emergency situations. It won't do a person suffering from a knife wound any good if the hospital's emergency trauma department is full, yet their OB ward is completely empty. Such a scenario translates into a potentially low overall hospital bed occupancy rate but an excessively high rate in emergency trauma.

Calculating occupancy over time

By calculating the rate for both individual departments and the hospital overall at regular intervals you can determine the average occupancy rates. Most hospitals track this rate at least on a quarterly basis, but often include monthly and weekly reports as well. Large, heavily trafficked institutions may also track daily and hourly occupancy rates. This helps give the clearest possible view of potential needs in the future. The calculation usually takes the length of stay for each patient into consideration, as well as how many days that patient spent in each department and at what level of care.

Errors in occupancy rate

The calculations for a hospital bed occupancy rate are fairly simple and straightforward, but are rarely free of flaws. Errors come primarily from purely human factors. Some hospitals may report more beds than they actually have in order to use more space for elective procedures, which provide steady cash flow and a measured work pace. This can leave inadequate space for emergency situations.

Beds may be available that are shown as full due to a number of reasons. In most cases it's a matter of paperwork not being done in a timely manner. On occasion it results from inadequate cleaning staff or inefficient communications between all of the different people responsible for keeping a bed operable.

Importance of an accurate occupancy rate calculation

The bed occupancy rate provides an essential piece of information regarding exactly what the needs of the community are. Because hospitals must build in as little margin as they can possibly get away with, the rate helps determine trends and high-demand areas where resources must be allocated. It lets administration know as exactly as possible how much staff, floor space and time might be needed for each patient. Without accurate readings, a hospital may end up with too many resources allocated to care-with extra costs passed on to patients or the government-or they may have insufficient resources and have to crowd people or turn them away.

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