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ICU bed management

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Like most hospitals, Krankenhaus Düren struggles with shortages in intensive care beds. There are 28 beds spread across two intensive care wards, and the ICU capacity has become a bottleneck for the processes in the hospital, partly because they are interconnected with so many other departments, like surgery, ED and the general patient wards. The hospital chose Philips consultants as their partners for the ICU bed management project to get a fresh perspective on resolving this issue.
Communication between the different professional groups has improved and runs more smoothly now, and staff satisfaction is much higher. The patient throughput in and out of the intensive care unit has improved and is better synchronized with other workflows in the hospital.”

Prof. Schröder, Chief Physician of Anesthesia

Krankenhaus Düren

Results visual Krankenhaus Duren

Our approach

Philips consultants began by reviewing data in the Paragraph 21 document from the last three years. This document records information about the individual case of a patient. For example when a patient entered the hospital, the ward they went to, how long they stayed on the ward, as well diagnostic exams, and types of surgery or treatment. Additionally, internal benchmark data from the hospital was analyzed.


The consultancy team then held a kick-off meeting where they presented the findings from the data analysis to several clinical and financial stakeholders, including the hospital CEO. After the kick-off meeting, the consultants interviewed stakeholders involved with the entire process, including general surgery, cardiology, ICU, bed management and finance. A process flow poster was created that visualized the key findings and bottlenecks.


“The Philips consultants carried out a very thorough, data-based study and examined the issue in great detail,” says Prof. Schröder. “The process flow poster gave us insight into the fact that the ICU bed management issue is a very complex issue. I think that many of us did not realize that the intensive care bed planning is impacted by several factors: how we schedule patients, the number of patients that are emergencies, how we communicate with doctors and nurses, and when and how we define discharge criteria.”

infograph ICU complexity EN highres white background
Complexity of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Areas for improvement

A one-day co-creation workshop was held with stakeholders involved in the process. Four multi-disciplinary teams were created from people at different levels of the organization to tackle four areas of improvement:

  • Optimize booking process for elective surgery
  • Optimize patient flows to positively impact length of stay
  • Optimize bed management with structured communication flows
  • Improve physician-nurse communication


“Overall I received extremely positive feedback on the co-creation workshop. It was a very constructive collaboration that created a common understanding and trust between the nurses, managers and doctors. The Philips consultants created a working group mentality that was very productive”, says Prof Schröder. “The process flow poster showed how various factors related to the ICU bed shortage problem are interconnected. It made clear that the hospital must be regarded as a system in order to positively influence patient flows collectively with all those involved”.

The results*

As a result of the workshop, the team introduced one contact person and one phone number for all ICU bed allocations, and all stakeholders are working according to this new process. This bed coordinator indicates whether intensive care capacity is available or where capacity can be freed up, and says to which ward a patient should be transferred. This has made the allocation of intensive care beds much more harmonious, constructive and in the best interests of all.


Prof. Schroder says, “Communication between the different professional groups has improved and runs more smoothly now. The patient throughput in and out of the intensive care unit has improved and is better synchronized with other workflows in the hospital.” Several follow-up projects are being defined for example, standardizing intensive care transfer criteria.

What makes the Philips team stand out is their high level of competence both from the specialist nursing and clinical side, as well as their knowledge of the healthcare business and considerable social skills. This is an excellent recipe for implementing project management and change management in our hospital.”

Prof. Schröder, Chief Physician of Anesthesia

Krankenhaus Düren

*Results from case studies are not predictive of results in other cases. Results in other cases may vary.
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Patrick Heiler

Dr. Patrick Heiler

Principal Consultant, DACH region

Patrick and his team develop and deliver strategic consulting offerings to hospitals and healthcare providers to help optimize clinical outcomes while reducing costs and improving efficiency across their clinical and business processes.  As researcher, Patrick has published in several scientific journals in the field of innovative imaging techniques and analysis methods.

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