‘Bed czars,’ fast track systems help hospitals reduce ER overcrowding

Emergency room sign

Photo credit: Getty/Nils Versemann

Hospitals have become creative with their strategies to reduce emergency department crowding. Among the latest solutions: "Bed czars" who monitor ED throughput. 

Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, California uses their “bed czars” to ensure that patients who will stay overnight at the hospital are moved from the ED to their hospital rooms in a timely manner and monitor discharges, according to an article from The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Grossmont also now employs a nurse practitioner in its triage department, who decides which patients to fast track through the ED, according to the article. The fast track unit is designed to handle patients with cuts, bruises and minor symptoms like a cough.

The hospital’s CEO Scott Evans told the Union-Tribune that it also uses software that connects patients with clinics or primary care providers to ensure that follow-up appointments are not at the ER. Hospital staff also communicate closely with skilled nursing facilities to ensure that those patients do not needlessly return to the hospital.

“If we can get them into primary care where their chronic diseases can be managed, they don’t need to necessarily bounce back here as often, and we think that’s better for them, obviously,” Evans told the newspaper.

Nassau University Medical Center in Long Island, New York is taking a similar approach to reducing ER usage, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The hospital has opened a primary care unit to treat an estimated 300,000 patients a year and could reduce emergency room visits by as much as 25 percent.

The efforts at Sharp Grossmont are paying off, reports the Union-Tribune. In 2015, the hospital recorded 3,267 hours of ambulance diversion--an increase of nearly 200 percent since 2011. But, according to the article, the new strategies have reduced that number to nearly zero.