Cedars-Sinai Blog

Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Heidi High, Director of Patient Flow and Capacity

Heidi High, director of Cedars-Sinai Patient Flow and Capacity Management

Meet Heidi High, director of Patient Flow and Capacity Management at Cedars-Sinai.

While frontline healthcare providers focus closely on the patient in front of them, Heidi and her team in the Capacity Command Center are looking at the medical center as a whole to make sure that each patient can get to the services they need. 

"I love to learn, and you can never learn everything you need to know. Our patient population is ever-changing."

Heidi compares it to air traffic control: an eye in the sky tracking who needs a safe place to land, who needs refueling and making sure all the right staff will be in place to keep everything safe and on time. Her team ensures patients receive the right services at the right time with the right staff to care for them. 

They can see the overall picture; where rooms are available, which rooms need to be cleaned for the next patient; which patients are ready to be transported and more. 

"It's fascinating because you work with every department involved in a patient's stay: finance, food and nutrition, environmental services, central transportation partners—everyone," she says.

What happens in the Capacity Command Center? What does a normal day look like for you?

Heidi High: Our center is very new. We just became an official department on July 1. First, it was a matter of bringing this team together from groups that had worked under different leaders. We always had the same goal but had different ways of approaching it. 

We brought together three teams into one: our patient placement team plans a patient's stay through the computer system, and they place them into an open bed after the ER or surgery; the transfer center brings patients in from other institutions; and our administrators are on duty, who are our eyes and ears, as well as our resource allocators. So, if one area is short on nurses or we're tight on beds and we need rooms cleaned, they make that happen.

We match our knowledge of what each patient needs to where they will fit in our puzzle.

How has COVID-19 affected your job?

HH: Everything we thought we knew before COVID-19 is no longer relevant. Having an agile team has never been more important. 

Every single day we're coming in and have to adapt to a new patient population. Now that we're resuming our other operations, it's a matter of being able to plan around the pandemic and still care for all of our communities' other needs.

One thing I love about this role is how we've all learned to work even better together in a crisis, the collaboration across departments. We have this strong network that formed that helps our transitions and decision-making go very smoothly. 

We've worked side by side with our epidemiologists to develop our guidelines for keeping patients safe as we welcome them back. There are scientific, proven methods that we know can keep patients safe.

How did you get into this field?

HH: I was an intensive care unit/critical care nurse. Part of what made me good at that job is I really like to know how things work. A nursing supervisor recognized this in me and asked me to join the administrators on-duty team.

Part of that job, in addition to staffing and putting out fires, is placing patients. I liked the puzzle. 

You have all these moving parts, and the job is to make sure everyone ends up in the best place for them. I love to learn, and you can never learn everything you need to know. Our patient population is ever-changing.

Where did you grow up?

HH: I came from Bertrand, a town of 750 in Nebraska. My dad is still a farmer there. He has a grain farm with corn, soybeans and wheat. It was a great place to grow up. I just never felt like it was my place in the world.

I learned a lot about perseverance and resilience. My dad is a super calm guy, even during times where there's a bad year. As a farmer, weather can affect your whole income, and there's nothing you can do to control it. Watching his demeanor and how he carried through those times taught me a lot.