The Challenge Of Overcrowded Emergency Departments

[wtr-time] For many hospitals, the emergency department (ED) is the hub for patient entry. People with varying injuries and illnesses come to the emergency room expecting the best care in the fastest time. With limited resources, hospitals must get the right attention to the right people at the right time. But with 145 million patients coming through EDs yearly, serving everyone promptly becomes a challenging task. This is where emergency department management comes in.

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Understanding emergency department management

The emergency room is no longer used exclusively for emergencies. The ED has become the first point of contact for many patients. While hospitals still deal with critical emergencies, patients with minor ailments enter the space too. Each person expects treatment with some degree of immediacy. Proper ED management ensures that the right resources are in place to help patients on time.

Effective use of resources

Efficient processes help to deal with the steady influx of insured and uninsured patients. Management is often a balancing act. Juggling limited beds, equipment, and staff shortages while managing patient expectations becomes critical. More often than not, particularly in small and rural hospitals, there are insufficient resources to deal with patients. Emergency management is vital in making sure patients do not feel the impact of what’s going on behind the scenes.

Steady flow in and out

The success of an ER depends on the amount of time patients spend from entry to leaving the facility. This is commonly known as length of stay (LOS). LOS is critical, as any bottleneck in the process impacts the metric. For instance, research shows an increase in patient occupancy has a 1:1 ratio to increased LOS. ED management must ask some vital questions when assessing LOS. Where are the gaps? Why do certain touchpoints take longer than others? How can a steady flow improve?

Decreasing LWBS and DAMA

LOS also has an essential effect on patient behavior. Poor wait times encourage leaving without being seen (LWBS) and discharge against medical advice (DAMA). LWBS is often the benchmark for the emergency departments. These rates can go as high as 20% in some cases. Studies show DAMA has had a steady 2% increase over the last decade. Emergency department management plays a critical role in reducing these numbers. Serious liabilities can occur, and poor customer satisfaction impacts hospital reputation.

Patient satisfaction comes first

At the core, a hospital provides a service and the patients are the customers. ED management focuses on patient satisfaction. With feedback from doctors, nurses, and patients, practical strategies and technologies improve buy-in. Training for medical staff to greet and care at the first point of contact is critical. All steps must keep patients in mind. Above all, ED management is essential in creating a smooth patient experience.

Improving satisfaction through management

The emergency department is the most stressful and critical area of a hospital to work in. Despite this, the area creates the most significant impact on saving lives and hospital success. Getting management right requires the right resources, processes, and consistency. Using a combination of technology, strategy, and improvement, hospitals can improve satisfaction, decrease leaving rates, and improve profitability.