3 Emergency Department Operations Strategies to Improve Efficiency

3 Emergency Department Operations Strategies to Improve Efficiency


How would you say your emergency department's operations are running?

Because according to a recent report from Yale scholars, “Hospitals are struggling to provide emergency and trauma care effectively.”

Despite the fact that most emergency departments are equipped with the latest in technological advances, many still can’t get past their fundamental operational inefficiencies.


So we’re taking a deep look at what this report says today to uncover what’s really to blame for your low numbers. Then we’ll discuss a few emergency department operations strategies to help you fix things.

To start, you should understand why these problems keep happening in the first place.


Why Are Emergency Departments Struggling

with Efficiency These Days?


One reason for inefficiency and low patient satisfaction scores could be the lack of beds to go around.


Though there’s been a 120% increase in the population, the number of patient beds has gone down significantly.
 

The amount of hospital beds available in 1975 was 1.5 million. Now compare this to today’s 900,000 and a glaring issue quickly surfaces.

And this is just the beginning.

“Over 90% of Emergency Departments report overcrowding at some point during the day.”


Without enough beds, emergency departments just like yours are forced to resort to boarding patients in hallways.


While this may not seem like a big deal, according to the report, this actually leads to:
  • Longer patient stays
  • Worse patient outcomes
  • Lower overall satisfaction

Patients in hallways “are often missed” or unintentionally neglected. Because of that, “mortality increases with the duration of ED boarding.”


The report also mentioned specifically that “stroke patients have poorer management and outcomes when emergency departments are crowded.”


The problem isn’t just an internal nightmare; these issues are affecting patients -- and may even be putting them in danger.


Without a solution, it will continue to spiral out of control, skyrocket costs, put more patients at risk, and push talented staff out the door.


Downsizing nurses and doctors, poor bed management, and logistical inefficiencies are also an issue here.


Thanks to these cost-cutting efforts, ER doctors now spend 43% of their time on data entry and a mere 28% of their time with patients.


If your emergency doctors can’t do what they’re trained to do because they’re too busy filling out paperwork, they may leave for another independent ED group that functions better.


Fortunately, there are a few ways you can improve your efficiency and combat all these issues at the same time.


Emergency Department Operations Strategies to Fix This


Today’s emergency departments have become a one-stop-shop where patients can get all sorts of testing and diagnostic work done fairly quickly without an appointment.


What used to take several weeks now happens in just a few short hours and patients simply need to bounce between examination rooms instead of having to visit multiple doctors individually.


This makes emergency departments an attractive option for people, including those who are underinsured or not insured at all, since they can get everything they need done in one place.

medical technology

This increase in demand comes at a cost: operational inefficiency.

 

Because of that, it’s important to consider the following strategies so your emergency department can spend more time and energy on true emergencies and less time dealing with things that don’t have as much of an impact, which leads to your first step:



#1

Work with All Team Members to Improve Door to Doc times


Improving your emergency department’s operational efficiency should be everyone’s goal, not just stakeholders and board members.


This means you’ll need to create a comprehensive plan detailing what should happen during both peak hours and slower periods.


Having the right amount of staff members at the right time ensures your door-to-doctor times are as low as possible while still being able to provide exceptional care.

 

This one improvement has a huge impact on patient satisfaction scores, as does this next reminder.


#2

Have Compassion in All Situations 


During busy times, it’s far too easy for team members to feel frustrated and rushed. Unfortunately, patients can see this negativity all too clearly; or worse, have their healthcare impacted by it.


While proper planning can drastically reduce this (see the previous tip), there may still be times when your team is short-staffed.


Here’s where an extra dose of compassion goes a long way -- for both patients and team members.


Instead of letting tempers flare, encourage your team members to take a more compassionate approach to delays, issues, interpersonal conflicts, and other bumps in the road.

 

It’s essential to help your team nip negative emotions in the bud so everyone can operate with a clear, level head and provide the level of care your patients need.


This step can lead to greater awareness, fewer rushed and pressured decisions, and increased patient and team member satisfaction scores.

Your EM group will operate more efficiently as a team all while improving customer service.


And this last strategy can also help you do just that.


#3

Gather Accurate Data at All Points of Patient Interactions


Another crucial tip here is to leave the guesstimations at home and use real-time data to make important decisions.


After all, how will you know which aspects of your process need to be reworked if you have no idea how you’re currently operating?


To do this, it’s essential to gather a baseline of data, including:

  • What your emergency department is like during peak and slow times
  • Staff coverage across all shifts during peak and slow times
  • The exact touch points patients go through before, during, and after seeing a doctor
  • Current processes and how long each step takes

Once you’ve gathered these key pieces of information, you can step back and see which areas need more attention and which ones can be replicated for improved efficiency.

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Long Term Solutions Need to Happen Too


Streamlining your emergency department operations is another key area requiring your focus, the researchers of this report say.


Consider these the best strategies for accomplishing that task:

  • 1
    Post wait times and offer emergency department appointments to control the influx of patients with non-emergency issues.
  • 2
    Redesign front entrances to focus on bedside registration.
  • 3
    Direct patients to a non-emergent fast track option so those “with urgent conditions can be treated quickly.” This “can reduce extensive waits and improve the overall flow.”
  • 4
    Offer telephone consults and use telemedicine to help patients determine if their condition is an emergency that requires a visit to the ER. This can also help cut costs.

Follow these tips and your emergency department will be on its way to greater efficiency and better customer satisfaction numbers ASAP.


Improve Efficiency and Patient Care -- Not One or the Other


As the report we examined today shows, glaring issues in the way many emergency departments operate affect both your patient outcomes and your bottom line.


But there are also plenty of short- and long-term solutions you can start using to fix troubled areas before they get any worse.

These emergency department operations strategies can help you strike a balance between improving efficiency and patient care simultaneously so you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.


How Healthy Is Your Practice?

Awareness of your practice’s financial health will help determine just how profitable your practice can be. The team at DuvaSawko knows what it takes to be a successful Emergency Department practice.



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