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No waiting room in the ER? Kent Hospital says it’s possible

October 5, 2011

What used to be Kent's ER waiting room is now for "patients in progress"

The big headline yesterday was about Kent Hospital‘s pledge to stop diverting ambulances. My co-worker joked that Kent won’t turn away ambulances, but the hospital will be stacking sick people on top of each other to accommodate the new volume.

Ideally, that won’t be the case.  There’s more to the story. The reason Kent made this pledge is because the hospital is actually moving patients through its ER department faster.  Officials at the hospital say they’ve been using a new technique called “Patient Rapid Assessment” that moves patients quickly in and out of available beds.

Kent says while this “Patient Rapid Assessment” is in place, there is no waiting room at the ER. Patients are immediately greeted by a “patient advocate” that brings them into the back room for a quick assessment. The patient is then sent to a range of different rooms depending on their needs.  Kent says it’s been practicing this new approach to emergency care since July and it’s only had to divert an ambulance once-during Tropical Storm Irene.

Ok, you might say, no waiting room, but is Kent just hiding patients in other parts of the hospital? Hospital officials say no. They’ve actually reduced wait times to see the doctor.

In the past, the average wait time to be seen when coming to the ED was two hours, while the entire patient visit averaged six hours. Today, with this new model of care, the average wait time is less than 45 minutes…

How is this possible? President and CEO Sandra Coletta says it’s all about rethinking systems.

What we were able to do is move people through the process. So you are in a bed for as long need as you need to be to be assessed. But say they’ve drawn lab work and you feel ok, you can move to a chair… You’re going to wait there till the result comes back in. Depending on the result, they may bring you back to a bed, but in the meantime we might have seen two or three other people in that bed. So that’s how. It’s really about understanding your resources and how to use them more effectively.

This rapid movement through the ER is part of a huge redesign at the hospital to provide better, more efficient care. Kent agreed to do this overhaul as a part of its settlement with the family of Michael Woods, who died of a heart attack three hours after entering the hospital’s emergency room.

A local group called Ximedica assisted Kent with this transformation. The firm’s originally  purpose was  developing and launching new products. In time,  its work creating medical devices evolved into looking at medical systems. Ximedica’s website doesn’t specify any clients by name, but Kat Darula, the director of design research, says the company has worked with Johnson & Johnson  on medical devices and with Lifespan on preventing wrong site surgeries, among others.

What do you think of this new approach? Anyone out there who’s used Kent’s ER in the past few months? Did you notice a difference?

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