How Can Hospitals Deliver Efficient Care?
Getting patients from the waiting room to the doctor in a timely, efficient manner is crucial to the success of a hospital. Timeliness is vital to ensuring that patients get safe, high-quality care on time. The volume of patients who receive efficient care also has a direct correlation to an institution’s reimbursement rates. But, sometimes, patients leave without being seen (LWBS), also known as a walkout. How can hospitals decrease these walkout rates and improve patient experience?
When impatience wins
One of the most common reasons patients leave without being seen is long wait times. Up to 30% of patients who walk out of the emergency waiting room leave because wait times are too long. Emergency departments are trying to run a triage process that ensures that the most urgent cases are seen first. Sometimes, however, the result can be that patients with less critical, but still significant, health problems are left waiting for longer than ideal.
Declining patient experience
When patients feel impatient in the waiting room, there is a direct impact on patient experience scores. Some research found that physicians with the highest experience scores had an average of a 13-minute wait time. Those with the lowest scores had an average wait time of 34 minutes.
What can EDs do?
A crucial tool in decreasing wait times, and thus reducing walkouts, is having primary care services available in the ER setting. One recent study showed having primary care physicians or hospitalists on call to see patients with less urgent needs resulted in a 19% decrease in patient wait time and overall increased patient experience scores.
How do hospitalists help?
Hospitalists are physicians who specialize in caring for patients in the hospital setting. These clinicians can help to reduce strain on primary care physicians who practice in the outpatient setting. Additionally, hospitalists have been shown to increase patient experience. These doctors are a clear point-of-contact and resource for patients and families, leading to higher patient satisfaction.
Better triage processes
Particularly in small hospitals, sometimes a lack of appropriate staffing leads to breakdowns in the triage process. For example, many patients present at the ED after regular office hours. However, this is often the time of day when the full-time staff has gone home for the day, leading to a short-staffed emergency waiting room. To bridge these gaps in staffing, many hospitals find success through employing a remote case management team to help triage patients after-hours.
Efficient care delivery
There are multiple strategies hospitals can employ to improve patient experience scores and decrease walkouts. Using hospitalists can help to reduce wait times. Additionally, a better triage system for all hours of the day decreases the rate of patients leaving without being seen. These strategies not only improve patient experience but also ensure that hospitals are delivering efficient, high-quality care.