Please Don’t Leave
To say emergency departments can get full is an understatement. Statistics show hospitals around the country receive over 140 million ED visits yearly. At any given hour, waiting times can climb from minutes to hours. Frustration creeps in, causing potential patients to leave without being seen (LWBS). Impatient patients can even leave against medical advice (AMA).
Small hospitals experience LWBS too
Hospitals around the country continually work to reduce LWBS rates. Small and rural institutions in particular need to pay special attention to attrition rates. These hospitals are vital in helping persons in underserved areas. With fewer options, patients leaving with a life-threatening issue put themselves at risk. These numbers can be as high as 1 in 5, causing a serious liability for the hospital. So what can be done to curb this alarming trend?
What’s the wait?
In an absence of information, patients feel anxious, unimportant, and eventually leave. But a simple practice of announcing the longest wait time could tremendously help abandonment rates. Implementing a strategy for announcing wait times can help patients be more at ease. This figure should be updated when a serious case comes in, for instance, a multi-car accident. Communicating wait times both in person and on a PA system eases frustrations.
Improving LBWS with data
The answers to most questions lie in the data those problems create. Consider collating the number of patients arriving in the ER. When do the patients arrive? What are the reasons for the visit? What’s the rate of LWBS and the average wait time of these patients? And what ailments do LWBS patients have? With critical data in hand, hospitals can make key changes to reduce patients stress. Data can reveal staff scheduling issues, bottlenecks, and process breakdowns that can be fixed to bring LWBS rates to zero.
A patient-centric strategy
The executives of any emergency department need to roll out a plan to keep patients top of mind. A patient-centric strategy includes having courteous staff at every touch point. Hospitals can also make sure patients have initial care in waiting rooms like ice packs or aspirin. Finally, getting feedback from patient experience through satisfaction surveys can help hospital executives funnel resources effectively. The fastest way to quick wins is resolving the pain points directly experienced by customers.
Reducing patient walkout helps both patients and hospitals. Patients can get much-needed care, potentially reducing hospital stays and even preventing death. Hospitals benefit not only from a quality of service standpoint. LWBS also has serious financial implications. Fewer patients mean reduced revenue and increased liability. Emergency department managers must keep these metrics top of mind. By improving communication with patients and being proactive, hospitals can serve better and save more lives.