What is patient acuity? Why do we need to know it? Conceptually, it's a measure of how much care a patient requires. We need to know it because in order to do effective nurse staffing, we must know how much work each patient represents for each nurse. We need a metric.
How do we measure acuity? The concept is simple but in practice objective measurement is complex. A commonly-used measure is anticipated time to discharge. Another is a point system in which points are added for patient care requirements that add to the nurse's workload. These are things like central lines, ventilator, mobility limitations, comorbidities, and so on.
The problem with the conventional measures is that they are crude. They do not provide accurate metrics. Most importantly, they are not dynamic; they are not easily updated as patient status changes, new orders are received, and other changes occur that impact nursing workload.
NurseMind provides a precise and planning-oriented definition of acuity: how many minutes of work are required by a patient of a nurse at any given moment. Acuity rises as tasks are added to the nurse's list and falls as they are checked off (or the patient is discharged or transferred.)
By summing the acuities for all of a nurse's patients we can see his pending workload. Possession by the charge nurse of this number for each nurse in the unit in real time enables effective, responsive staffing and nursing resource allocation. If one nurse is heavily loaded and another isn't, some of that load (a patient, or aspects of a patient's care) can be shifted from one to the other. If all the nurses are overloaded, the charge knows to summon additional help.
Nurse staffing requires balancing two conflicting objectives: that our patients are getting the care they need, and that we are using resources efficiently.
Charge nurses do this load balancing every day, with great skill and finely-honed work processes. With NurseMind's real-time acuity monitor they can do it even better and with less running around the floor checking up on everything all the time or waiting for swamped nurses to get their attention.
On a smartphone screen, the charge nurse sees a list of the nurses working on the unit. For each of these nurses, the screen shows a list of patients and the number of minutes of pending tasks for each. If the total of those numbers exceeds some pre-set limit (that the charge nurse can set) it turns from green to yellow. Past a second limit it turns from yellow to red. In the example screen, one nurse is red, two are yellow, and two are green. At a glance, the charge sees how her nurses are doing. It's no substitute for experience and clinical judgment but it sure helps!