Solutions for improved hospital-wide patient flows – a qualitative interview study of leading healthcare providers
Journal article, 2023

Background: Hospital productivity is of great importance for patients and public health to achieve better availability and health outcomes. Previous research demonstrates that improvements can be reached by directing more attention to the flow of patients. There is a significant body of literature on how to improve patient flows, but these research projects rarely encompass complete hospitals. Therefore, through interviews with senior managers at the world’s leading hospitals, this study aims to identify effective solutions to enable swift patient flows across hospitals and develop a framework to guide improvements in hospital-wide patient flows. Methods: This study drew on qualitative data from interviews with 33 senior managers at 18 of the world’s 25 leading hospitals, spread across nine countries. The interviews were conducted between June 2021 and November 2021 and transcribed verbatim. A thematic analysis followed, based on inductive reasoning to identify meaningful subjects and themes. Results: We have identified 50 solutions to efficient hospital-wide patient flows. They describe the importance for hospitals to align the organization; build a coordination and transfer structure; ensure physical capacity capabilities; develop standards, checklists, and routines; invest in digital and analytical tools; improve the management of operations; optimize capacity utilization and occupancy rates; and seek external solutions and policy changes. This study also presents a patient flow improvement framework to be used by healthcare managers, commissioners, and decision-makers when designing strategies to improve the delivery of healthcare services to meet the needs of patients. Conclusions: Hospitals must invest in new capabilities and technologies, implement new working methods, and build a patient flow-focused culture. It is also important to strategically look at the patient’s whole trajectory of care as one unified flow that must be aligned and integrated between and across all actors, internally and externally. Hospitals need to both proactively and reactively optimize their capacity use around the patient flow to provide care for as many patients as possible and to spread the burden evenly across the organization.

Capacity utilization


Organizational efficiency

Process improvements


Hospital ranking




Philip Åhlin

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Peter Almström

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Carl Wänström

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

BMC Health Services Research

1472-6963 (ISSN)

Vol. 23 1 17

Subject Categories

Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy

Medical Ethics






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