Unit-based models of care

A tool for ensuring patient safety


“To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless.” – Mike Krzyzewski

High-performing teams plan, communicate, reflect, and take action together. Teamwork can transform seemingly impossible tasks into opportunities for people to come together and create value.

Dr. Sima Pendharkar, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Hospital Center

Dr. Sima Pendharkar

The increasing complexity of health care makes team-based care necessary to achieve successful health outcomes for patients. At the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Hospital Center, a 464-bed care center, we transformed the model of care on the medical wards into a geographic, unit-based team model. Here we describe our journey – the successes, the challenges, and the opportunities for growth.

Previous model

In the previous care model on our medical wards, no set structures were in place. Teams would travel to multiple wards throughout the hospital to see the patients they were rounding on. Each floor had its own set of social workers and case managers, therefore a hospital medicine team routinely dealt with more than eight social workers and case managers to address their patients’ needs in a single day.

Multidisciplinary rounds for all medical patients were held at 11 a.m. in a room located a significant distance away from the medical wards. All case managers and social workers would sit in this room from 11 a.m. until noon, and teams would travel to that room to discuss their patients.

Many challenges were identified in this model, including a lack of communication, a de-emphasis on teamwork, and a design that did not take physician workflows into account resulting in low efficiency. Thus, these challenges sparked a desire to create a more effective and team-based methodology of accomplishing excellence in delivery of clinical care. Dr. Pendharkar, having worked primarily in centers with unit-based care, determined that a geographic, unit-based model of care could transform care delivery at the Brooklyn Hospital Center.

Looking ahead

The efforts for transforming the vision of geographic, unit-based teams into a reality started by gathering all stakeholders together to unite for a common mission. Initial meetings were held with all parties including social workers, case managers, residents, nursing staff, bed board and attending physicians in internal medicine, and the emergency department.

The vision of a geographic, unit-based team was shared and explained to all team members. Exercises in LEAN methodology were conducted, including one-piece flow exercises, to highlight the possibilities of what could be accomplished through teamwork. Once support for the vision was in place from all parties, the logistics were addressed.

The biggest challenge to overcome was how to place all of one team’s patients on a singular medical ward. In our hospital, a medical ward holds anywhere from 30 to 33 patients. Each hospital medicine team, of which there are many, typically carries 20-23 patients. We created a blueprint to map out the floor to which each team and attending would be assigned. Next, we partnered with both IT and bed board to design an admission order set that specified the particular geographic location that a team and attending were associated with so that patients could be placed accordingly from the ED.

It was important for the ED doctors, bed board, and the internal medicine residents to understand these changes because all of these parties were involved in the initial admitting process. Dr. Pendharkar and Dr. Malieckal provided all groups with in-person training on how the logistics of the system would unfold. Noon conference lectures were also held to explain the vision to residents.

Over 3 weeks, the first ward we chose to implement our model on slowly accumulated the patients of one team – this was the gradual trickle phase. We then selected a “re-set” date. On the re-set date, it was determined that all patients would go to the team that was assigned to that floor, with the exception of any private attendings’ patients.

On the day before the re-set date, time was spent ensuring that all hand-offs were safe. Dr. Pendharkar and Dr. Malieckal spoke with every intern and team that would be handing off and/or receiving patients as a result of the re-set policy. The goal was to ensure that on that date a ward had close to 100% of its patients belonging to the team/attending that was assigned to that area.


Recommended Reading

Highlighting the value in high-value care
The Hospitalist
‘Update in Hospital Medicine’ offered practice pearls at HM19
The Hospitalist
Nontraditional specialty physicians supplement hospitalist staffing
The Hospitalist
Short Takes
The Hospitalist
Top 10 things physician advisors want hospitalists to know
The Hospitalist
Best of RIV highlights practical, innovative projects
The Hospitalist
Long-term antibiotic use may heighten stroke, CHD risk
The Hospitalist
Bringing hospitalist coverage to critical access hospitals
The Hospitalist
Breaking the high-utilization cycle
The Hospitalist
Top 10 tips community hospitalists need to know for implementing a QI project
The Hospitalist
   Comments ()