Parkland Memorial Hospital joined forces with an unlikely ally to improve efficiency in its emergency room—Toyota.
When the car manufacturer announced plans to move to the Dallas, Texas, region, Parkland saw an opportunity, as Toyota offers a program to assist nonprofits at no cost, according to an article from the Dallas Morning News. Instead of getting involved in the patient care process, Toyota stepped in to make ER discharge more efficient.
Parkland offers private ER rooms, which patients enjoy but can create a management issue because staff find them difficult to monitor, according to the article. So Toyota took advantage of existing lights outside the doors to alert clinicians of room status. For example, green means a patient is reading for discharge and purple means the room is ready for a new occupant.
The partnership also prompted clinicians to ask patients earlier in the process whether they need a social worker, as waiting for one to arrive and assist with their needs can extend discharge times. Parkland also implemented a uniform protocol for nurses to follow when discharging patients.
The project started in February, and the results already show promise, the newspaper reported. By September, the average discharge wait time dropped from 52 minutes to 31 minutes. Eventually the team wants to get the time down to 15 minutes.
For example, Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts, also turned to ER discharges to improve efficiency. It focused on morning discharges and aimed to discharge 20 patients by 10 a.m. to improve patient flow. The initiative helped to improve communication between clinicians, and engaged family members and caregivers early on in treatment to address issues, like transportation, that could interfere with discharge.
A standardized approach to discharge can improve efficiency across the hospital. But a word of caution: Research shows that one-fifth of patients are discharged before their vital signs are stable, which can lead to readmissions and other complications.