Emergency departments (EDs) serve as the “front doors” to hospitals across the nation. In light of physician shortages, an aging population and the opioid crisis, ED visits are increasing now more than ever. In addition, today’s EDs are under immense pressure to deliver higher, more specialized quality of care.
According to a recent report by Vituity, hospitals should consider innovative solutions that transform quality of care, going beyond expensive renovations, hiring hard-to-find specialists and adding inpatient beds. The following are three, relatively low-cost solutions that today’s most innovative EDs are using to positively change the way care is delivered:
1. Expand service offerings by making specialists available in the ED via telehealth platforms.
The problem: Due to shortages, specialty consults for emergency providers may be delayed many hours or not available. This concern is most prevalent in rural community hospitals, which tend to serve an older patient population and demand expert insight.
The solution: Implement an effective telehealth program that can boost quality by connecting ED patients to the right care from the right provider at the right time.
- Telehealth programs save hospitals and health systems an estimated $1,000 to $1,500 per patient.
- For example, teleneurology and telestroke programs provide EDs with 24/7 access to consults from board-certified neurologists. With help from telehealth “robots,” neurologists can use video conferencing to interview and examine patients.
A word from an expert: “A great majority of psychiatric patients don’t need to be hospitalized if we do the right interventions, start medications, and have the proper personnel treating them. At the same time, on-demand emergency telepsychiatry is available for more serious cases. These medical professionals can provide consultations on treatments and medications. This is being done with amazing outcomes.” – Scott Zeller, MD, Vice President of Acute Psychiatry Vituity.
2. Integrate across emergency and hospital medicine teams.
The problem: Studies consistently show a negative correlation between ED wait times and patient experience. What’s more, this negative perception persists; patients admitted from a crowded ED to the hospital tend to be less satisfied with their inpatient care and overall hospital experience.
The solution: Pursue a team-oriented process that involves all clinicians in the development of a treatment plan, creating smooth and accelerated transitions. According to a case study led by Vituity at Adventist Health Central Valley Network, care integration created efficiencies by:
- Decreasing turnaround time to discharge by 22 percent
- Lowering average length of stay to 2.9 days
- Reducing transfers out of the health system
A word from an expert: “EDs need to become better integrated to ensure that training and processes are appropriate for all patients. Oftentimes, processes for treating behavioral health or neurology conditions are not clinically integrated across the department, causing widespread suffering, which undermines the economics of our EDs and leads to less optimal patient outcomes.” – Denise Brown, MD, Chief Strategy Officer Vituity.
3. Direct patients to urgent or teleurgent care services for less severe emergencies.
The problem: An estimated 13 to 27 percent of ED visits could be handled through primary or urgent care. Patients report lack of access to care as a major reason for these types of visits to the ED.
The solution: Encourage patients to utilize urgent care centers, often found in convenient locations with flexible walk-in hours, shorter wait times and online check-in options. Similarly, teleurgent care programs provide fast, expert care for acute illnesses and injuries via video visit.
- In about 80 percent of cases, virtual visits with an emergency physician can resolve the patient’s complaint, preventing a more costly and time-consuming visit to the ED.
- Leading health systems have invested in outreach to drive patients to urgent care and effectively freed up EDs for true emergencies.
A word from an expert: “Telemedicine is the most up-and-coming piece of technology that’s going to help expand healthcare everywhere.” – Arbi Ohanian, MD, Vice President of Acute Neurology Vituity.