When my mother felt severe chest pain in the middle of the night recently, my father helped her into the car and rushed her to the local hospital. After he exchanged only a few words with the nurse at the Emergency registration desk, the staff rushed my mother into an exam room and immediately began checking vital signs and assessing her condition.
Protocol demands that patients with certain symptoms be seen immediately, and mom’s chest pain fell within those parameters. Unfortunately, most patients who visit their local Emergency Department have to wait an average of 28 minutes before being seen by a healthcare professional. The average time before being sent home is 138 minutes, and the average time before being admitted as an inpatient is 274 minutes. That’s a lot of time spent sitting in the waiting room when you’re sick or suffering from an injury.
Efficiency is paramount in every unit of the hospital, but nowhere is it more important than in the dynamic environment of the ED. Caregivers and support staff must move patients in and out as quickly as possible. Inefficient “patient throughput,” or “flow,” leads to fewer patients getting the care they need, when they need it.
Long wait times also are cited as a prime factor for “LWBS” visits, in which patients leave without being seen by a physician. Some studies suggest that a rise in LWBS rates points to a national problem with access to emergency care. In fact, the latest edition of a state-by-state report card gives the nation a dismal D+ on support for emergency care.
I’m thankful my mother received top-notch care at her local hospital, and that she’s now recovering at home. Still, the numbers point to the need for better efficiency at hospitals throughout the country.
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Lori Uzzo is Content Writer at Voalte.