Stevens Hospital streamlines ER operations

  • Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 10:21pm
  • News

By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer

EDMONDS — If people need to go to the emergency room for sprains, broken bones or winter viruses with high fevers, Stevens Hospital is initiating a quicker way for these patients to be treated.

The new system, which starts today, will have staff on site from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily to treat these sorts of illnesses and nontrauma injuries.

About 11 percent of the 42,000 patients who come to the emergency room each year can be diagnosed with this new, quicker treatment system, said Dr. Michelle Gill, emergency services medical director.

Traditionally, emergency rooms patients are sorted or triaged by the severity of their illness or injury. As one example, a patient with symptoms of a heart attack would be given quicker treatment priority than someone with a broken bone or sprain.

The goal of the new system is to get patients with less severe injuries or illness in and out of the emergency room quicker without affecting the more intensive care that severely injured or ill patients need.

“It’s been shown over and over again that where patient wait times go down, satisfaction increases almost equally,” Gill said.

Wait times at Stevens’ emergency room ballooned last fall as swine flu moved through the Puget Sound region and the nation.

By December, the elapsed time between when patients arrived and when they left hit 220 minutes, about 3.5 hours.

The new system will cut patient waiting times, in part through better coordination of care, Gill said.

Until now, patients sometimes could be asked the same questions two to three times as they moved through the system.

The change allows staff, such as a physician assistant and a nurse, to work together to take information, she said. Decisions on which tests are needed are made earlier in the process to reduce waits.

“It’s more of a parallel rather than a sequential process,” Gill said.

Similar systems at other hospitals have allowed the time from start to discharge for basic medical treatments to drop from 185 minutes, or just over three hours, to about 85 minutes, or a little less than an hour-and-a-half, Gill said.

The hospital has been planning the change in its emergency room for some time, but wanted to take several other steps first.

In July, the hospital also hired a new group, California-based CEP America, a physician-owned management company, to take over its emergency room.

It also switched from paper forms and charts to an electronic medical records system in the fall.

And finally, a $274,000 expansion of the emergency room was launched in November and completed earlier this month. It includes about 600 square feet of space for the three new rapid treatment areas as well as a conference room, office space and staff areas.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.