With the rise in unemployment and the lack of health insurance for millions of Americans, emergency rooms are experiencing an influx of patients. This rise in numbers is causing a rise in the problem that has plagued emergency rooms for years, namely: wait time. As healthcare administrators struggle to make emergency rooms effective places for patient care, there are changes that are being made to reduce the wait time experienced by thousands.
One of the most effective undertakings by hospital administrators has been the posting of emergency room wait times to hospital websites. Now, those people with non-life threatening illnesses or injuries can log on and instantly be alerted to the approximate wait time in their local emergency room. This alert allows patients to decide if they want to visit the emergency room, seek other options for care, or simply forego a visit to the doctor altogether.
Another innovative addition to the emergency room has been non-emergency personnel. This may include a single doctor, or multiple staff, designated to take care of those patients who are experiencing non-life threatening issues. These doctors may take care of patients suffering with the flu, bronchitis or minor injuries, both reducing wait time and taking pressure off of emergency personnel.
Every emergency room has a period during the day or night when they experience the number of patients seeking care. In order to reduce wait times, some hospitals have extra staff during these peak hours. Extra staff may include nurse practitioners and physician assistants, both professions that are trained and able to treat the sick.
Walk into an emergency room today and you may see two windows or counters: One for emergencies and one for non-urgent cases. Separate areas in the emergency room enable personnel to concentrate their efforts where they are needed most. This separation allows for a better flow of patients, more efficient operations and, ultimately, better health care.
Not only were patients forced to sit for hours waiting to be seen, but it was not unusual for patients to have to wait 24 hours or more for results of lab work. In the more efficient emergency rooms of today, many, smaller lab tests are done on site. This means that patients are provided with results sooner, and are able to receive the proper care without unnecessary wait times.
In traditional emergency rooms, patients are sectioned off from one another by curtains and seen by any available medical staff. In the new, efficient emergency rooms, patient areas have been redesigned to include rooms with physical walls rather than curtains. Nurses are assigned to a block of rooms, a strategy to ensure that patients are not forgotten about and left sitting for hours.
While you may never walk in and out of an emergency room in less than an hour, hospital administrators around the country are working tirelessly to ensure that their ER’s are as efficient as possible. The next time you visit the emergency room, pay attention and notice the small changes that have been made; they’ve all been for your benefit.
Ivan Nichols is an avid health blogger. If you’re interested in becoming an health administrator, you may consider a masters degree such as that offered by healthadmin.ohio.edu.