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  • How to Get a Handle on Emergency Department Overcrowding

    Published: 06/03/2013


     By: Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, May 30, 2013

    A projected increase in emergency department volume within the next three years means hospitals need to get to work now to implement better patient flow schemes. The need is urgent because how patients move through the Emergency Department has significant financial implications throughout the rest of the hospital.

    These days, hospitals are trying to make things quick, quicker, and quickest for beleaguered emergency departments and their patients, who often face delays in treatment after they enter the hospital's automated doors. By establishing streamlined throughput systems, hospitals hope to prevent frustrated patients from walking out, bolting without getting care.

    Leaders are improving triage areas, redesigning facilities, rotating physician staff, separating patients for urgent or nonurgent care, and implementing improved technology for greater efficiencies to eke out cost savings.

    These multipronged approaches are born from hospital leaders' awareness that quality of care is affected when ED patients are placed in holding patterns, or boarded. Overcrowding contributes to poor care, frustrated patients, increased costs, potential harm, and stress for both patients and staff.

    Many hospitals have used technological changes to improve ED throughput. The 509-bed Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia uses a workflow management tracking tool to keep pace with ED flow. For an urban facility, the benefit of such a system was important to reduce waiting times and improve movement of patients through the ED, says Carl Chudnofsky, MD, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Einstein Medical Center.

    "We put in automatic tracking with different types of tracking hardware," says Chudnofsky. Despite successes, the process isn't always smooth. Over time, the hospital has had to overcome technical challenges, such as the fact that tracking and electronic medical record software were not "talking to each other." The facility shut down the tracking for a while to fix that issue, he says.

    (Read the whole story here.)

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