A Crowded Emergency Department
An overcrowded emergency department is a hospital’s worst nightmare. An ED is the nucleus of the hospital. Here, members of the ED assess patients and assign the right care. ED wait times are an inevitable part of going to the hospital. However, long wait times affect the patient experience. These hurt patients then leave without being seen and have a poor experience.
Why the long wait?
As with any service, the customer will have a long wait if several persons need care at the same time. EDs get overcrowded when many visitors do not have a primary care provider. As a result, the ED becomes the first point-of-contact instead of a family doctor. These persons may have minor ailments and need to wait while doctors work on high-risk, emergency cases. To add to the issue, hospitals have limited beds, doctors, nurses, and case managers. Here are 3 strategies that can help improve wait times and patient experience.
1. Leveraging technology
In the past, a visitor to the ED went through several steps before a final decision on treatment. Those steps included triage, registration, and an initial assessment. Poor organization and low staff at critical times extend the wait time. Technology fills the gap with both telemedicine and remote case management. Bringing in virtual, high-skilled case managers at critical times can help with quick triage. Doctors can also consult with patients via telemedicine. Hospitals can increase or decrease these services as needed.
2. The right staff
Long wait times can be an issue of not having the right people in place to help. Adding the right personnel can help potential patients feel comfortable. Advanced practice providers, for example, are skilled persons who can provide similar care as doctors. Hospitalists are doctors that can manage the patient experience in the ED. By relying on these high-value staff members, doctors can quickly address critical patients, keeping a healthy flow.
3. What gets measured, gets managed
The best way to make significant changes? Start taking performance seriously. Record the timeframe for each stage of the ED process. Then make sure all persons in the department are aware of the results. From there, strong management can transform the speed of care. Leaders can allocate resources at peak periods and hold staff accountable.
Success starts in the ED
The truth is, there are a lot of moving parts involved with the ED. Unless there is a life-threatening issue, patients will experience some delays. The demand for beds and care will almost always exceed the supply. The right strategy could then be the difference between a 1-hour and a 6-hour wait. With technology, the right support staff, and effective case management, a hospital can thrive.