A hospital management corporation with acute care hospitals located across the country was beginning to hear complaints from the chief executive officers (CEO) at its locations. Competitors to the company’s hospitals in Florida, Texas, Nevada, California and other states were beginning to advertise waiting times in their emergency rooms.
We looked at services available from third-parties but rejected them for three reasons:
- They had exclusive agreements with other hospitals in some cities so we would not be able to use the same solution at every hospital
- They required periodic manual updates from someone on the emergency department staff
- They were expensive
Instead, we decided to use the corporate Information Services department to build a proprietary, automated system that would draw relevant data directly from the Cerner electronic health records system that was used in all system hospitals.
The system measured the time between when a patient arrived at the emergency department’s registration desk and the time when triage was completed. The system then computed the average time over a four-hour period, then updated the wait time every 30 minutes.
The IS department then created a web service that made the results available online to our websites, displays, and billboards. In addition, all data could be downloaded into a spreadsheet so hospital management could look for trends and make necessary adjustments.
A Step Further
After we created the ER Wait Time module, we worked with the IS department to create another system that would provide additional convenience for patients and help administrators better manage their staff. It was called ER Reserve and it is a reservation system that lets people who are planning a trip to the emergency department let the staff know they are on the way and when they will arrive.
ER Reserve was intended for people who need urgent medical care that it not life-threatening. For patients, the application helps reduce wait times because the ED staff knows they are on the way. At the same time, department managers could get a clearer picture of their staffing needs for the next several hours.
Together with the IS department, we created an online form that patients could complete and submit. Each patient immediately receives a confirmation email while a registration notice is sent to a printer located at the registration desk. A text message can also be sent to a designated cell phone carried by the nurse manager or another staff member.