How Sacramento's busiest ER cut wait times to half the national average

One of California's busiest emergency departments has cut wait times by hours and to far below the national average, thanks to "lean" methodology, according to Healthcare Informatics.

Patient volumes at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento have nearly doubled since 2008 and will likely reach 120,000 patients by the end of the year, the publication reports.

The additional patients combined with space constraints led to a dramatic increase in ED wait times. In some cases patients had to wait five to six hours to see a doctor and every night there were 30 to 40 patients in the waiting room, Karen Murrell, M.D., chair of emergency medicine at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, told Healthcare Informatics

Today, Kaiser South Sacramento's average wait time is down to 19 minutes, less than half the national average of 58 minutes. ED length of stay is also down to 43 minutes for low-acuity patients, compared to the 118-minute national average.

The reason for its success: a program that focuses on leadership and lean manufacturing techniques, a method that has also significantly cut wait times at California's Stanford Hospitals and Clinics, according to the article. Kaiser truncated its extensive triage process, shortened its screening exam from 19 minutes to two minutes, and now has physician-and-nurse teams control patient flow. 

"You look at everything with a critical eye to make it better for patients and easier for providers," said Murrell. "The steps to setting this up were establishing strong leadership that sets a vision, looking at every process critically, involving frontline staff and then continuous improvement."

To learn more:
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