More than half (55 percent) of respondents to the HealthLeaders Media 2014 ED Strategies Survey¹ said their Emergency Department is “always or often overcrowded.” The crowding epidemic in our nation’s EDs has huge implications not only for patients seeking treatment, but also for the overall efficiency and financial health of every hospital.
As the hospital’s gateway, the ED is not a destination; it’s a starting point for the patient journey. The ED staff must oversee the care of patients, communicate with providers, and coordinate diagnostics and critical laboratory results, along with collaborating with pharmacy and other therapy team members. Finally, for each patient, a nurse must coordinate all treat and release visits, along with inpatient admissions.
Each of these tasks requires close communication within and between departments. Quick, efficient communication results in a more holistic and comprehensive ED throughput process. Due to the dynamic environment, the ED offers unique challenges as well as opportunities for continuous improvement. Lean methodologies and rapid process redesign efforts focus on staffing, triage, registration and other factors, remaining critical to patient-centered care. Improving ED throughput has a distinct impact on the clinical and economic value of each visit.
Janet Steves, Director of Nursing Resources at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida, uses text messaging via smartphone to help avoid overcrowding in the ED on weekends and evenings.
“When we are on ‘Code Lavender’ and we have more patients than beds, I can help look for different ways of avoiding diversion,” she explains. “Nursing supervisors send a text message from the hospital using Voalte One™, and I receive it on Voalte Me™ at home. This gives us a secure way to communicate sensitive patient information, which we couldn’t do previously with my personal phone.”
At Frisbie Memorial Hospital in New Hampshire, caregivers saw such positive results when the hospital replaced pagers and overhead paging with smartphones, it extended that technology into the hospital’s ambulances. Ambulance services previously relied on radio communication, which relayed only general information to unspecified staff in the ED.
“Now we’re much more prepared for patients coming in the door,” explains Sally Gallot-Reeves, Healthcare Project Director at Frisbie Memorial. “A text message is sent directly from the ambulance to the Charge Nurse, who can immediately start preparing a room with everything needed to care for that patient the minute they arrive.”
Is your Emergency Department overcrowded with patients who need to be transported to inpatient units? Do your nurses struggle to communicate with physicians to convey lab results, X-rays and other notifications? While nurses wait for direction, processed patients wait to be transferred out of ED beds, and newly arriving patients wait to be moved to a treatment room. The registration line grows longer, patients begin going home without being seen, and your hospital credibility and profitability diminishes.
Read our new white paper, “3 ways smartphones improve the ED throughput process,” to see how smartphones can help reduce patient intake and transfer time, streamline communication with text messages, and improve response time with nurse call integration. The results will be apparent not only in your Emergency Department, but throughout your hospital.
Candace Smith, MPA, RN, NEA-BC, is Chief Nursing Officer of Voalte.
1. “Throughput and satisfaction in the ED,” Michael Zeis, HealthLeaders Media, May 15, 2014.