ER best practices improve flow

With half (46 percent) of healthcare leaders saying their emergency department (ED) is overcrowded, hospitals in emergency care are setting their sights on improving patient flow, HealthLeaders Media reported.

As the industry faces an aging population, limited access to primary care and higher ED patient volumes, 43 percent of healthcare leaders rank patient flow in the ED as their main challenge, according to a recent HealthLeaders Media report.

To improve the patient flow, hospitals are establishing fast-track zones for severe illnesses, launching triage evaluation procedures for identifying which patients should be seen and treated faster and coordinating with nurses to enhance efficiency, according to the article.

Some hospitals have found success by implementing programs that concentrate on psychiatric health issues, prescription drug abuse and alcohol-related issues to divert nonemergent patients with specific conditions.

Other ED patient flow solutions include operating or partnering with urgent care centers, as well as boosting physician recruitment. "The thing is we, like everyone else, don't have enough primary care doctors so we're looking at beefing up on our mid-level physician assistants and other providers to assist," Gary Tiller, CEO of Ninnescah Valley Heath Systems in Kansas, told Health Leaders.

Healthcare leaders also could consider embracing the door-to-doc model to match patient demand to services, beds and providers. The approach involves staffing more ED workers during the busy hours and fewer staff members during the slow times of the day, as well as categorizing ED visitors into complex, high-acuity patients and lower-acuity, less complex patients, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the HealthLeaders article
- here's the HealthLeaders survey and report (.pdf)