Discharges in the ER go faster when doctors get lab results on their smartphones

Doctors talking
Patients who came to the ER for chest pain spent 26 minutes less time waiting to be discharged when emergency physicians received lab results on their smartphone compared to when doctors waited for the results to appear in the EHR. (Getty/wmiami)

The long wait for lab results to determine whether they stay in the hospital or go home is often the most difficult part of an emergency visit for patients.

One way to reduce the waiting time may be to have emergency physicians receive lab results directly on their smartphones instead of via the electronic health record system, according to a recent study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Researchers found that patients who came to the ER for chest pain spent 26 minutes less time waiting to be discharged when emergency physicians received the lab results on their smartphone compared to when doctors waited for the results to appear in the EHR.

"For patients waiting for lab results, 26 minutes is significant, even if the smartphone process did not shorten overall length of stay significantly," said study author Aikta Verma, M.D., of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, in an announcement.

Researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial of a quality-improvement initiative using troponin push alerts. Patients who come to the ER with chest pain have blood drawn to test for troponin levels. Elevated levels indicate a heart attack. The research team randomly selected physicians who would receive alerts with the results via their smartphones.

They found that it only took 68.5 minutes for docs who got the alerts on the phone to get the results and make a final discharge decision. But it took 94.3 minutes for physicians who didn’t receive the push alerts.

Verma said he believes that other results, such as radiology reports, vital signs and critical lab results, could also be pushed to smartphones. However, because too many alerts can become a problem, researchers believe further study is needed to determine the ideal number and type of alerts that ER docs should use.

Meanwhile, Verma recommends that hospital ERs use the push-alert notification system to improve flow through the department for chest pain patients.