Denver hospitals retool emergency department processes

Like peers around the country, Denver hospitals are finding their emergency departments and others in the state are growing steadily more crowded and slow-moving. A recent study by Press Ganey Associates, for example, found Colorado patients spent an average 217 minutes in EDs in 2007, compared with 190 minutes in 2005. Making the problem worse, the number of trauma surgeons available nationwide is declining, making it more likely critically-ill patients will be caught up in the ED traffic jam.

Hospitals in the Denver metro are trying a wide array of methods for improving ED performance. In one example, Exempla Healthcare managed to cut wait times at its three Denver-area hospitals by one hour after re-examining how it runs the ED, including running patient satisfaction surveys and hiring performance coaches to rate doctors and employees. The health system is also opening a $30M urgent care unit to divert less-sick patients to a better environment for their needs.

In another example, HCA is re-engineering processes within the EDs at hospitals it runs jointly with Denver's HealthOne. Physicians there credit a new EMR system, which asks basic questions about treatment and suggests options, with helping move patients through the system more quickly. HealthOne's Medical Center of Aurora, meanwhile, has instituted a system in which doctors see triage patients before clerks, nurses or hospital administrative employees.

To learn about more Denver hospitals' efforts:
- read this article in The Denver Business Journal

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