Changing the Experience for Emergency Patients

In an emergency department that receives more than 82,000 visits per year, patients can often experience full waiting rooms and extended wait times. Even with these challenges, the Barnes-Jewish Hospital emergency services team is on a mission of continuing to provide exceptional patient care while also improving patient satisfaction.

In the summer of 2014, we completed a renovation of the emergency department waiting area. The project took six weeks to complete and was designed to provide an improved environment for patients and a more efficient triage process. The project enhanced patient flow, improved navigation and provided a more comfortable space for our patients.

Emergency Department Triage RoomsWhen people enter the emergency department, they’re registered, asked about their health condition and sent to one of four triage rooms. One of the rooms is designated for lower acuity patients, like those who have a tooth ache or sprained ankle.

“We’ve been able to cut our wait times in half by designating a triage room for our lower acuity patients,” says Brenda Rocha, DNP, RN, emergency services director at Barnes-Jewish. “Those requiring immediate treatment are seen first, but we also really wanted to reduce the wait time of our lower acuity patients as well.”

Meeting the needs of patients and family members in the emergency department’s waiting area includes checking vital signs and providing blankets while they wait to be treated. Shorter wait times, excellent customer service and proactively addressing patient needs in the waiting area all began to create a positive effect in patient satisfaction ratings.

“We want our patients and their family members to be as comfortable as possible in our waiting area,” says Cindy Lefton, PhD, RN, patient experience manager and researcher at Barnes-Jewish. “We can have up to 50 people waiting at a time so we want them to know that we care and we’re doing everything we can to meet their needs while they wait to be treated.”

The emergency department has also turned its attention to continue providing excellent customer service after the clinical care has been provided.

“We’re focused on a more consistent and efficient process for checking on patients and our discharge phone calls,” says Dawn Marchetto, MBA, RN, BSN, emergency services and patient access director at Barnes-Jewish.

A team of nurses now calls every patient that is discharged from the emergency department, which can be more than 3,300 calls a month. They answer questions patients may have regarding their health condition, medication, test results and ask if they’ve made their follow-up appointment.

The calls are also an opportunity for patients to ask questions about their health they may have forgotten to ask during their initial treatment and for the clinical team to reinforce the medical advice the patient was given during their visit.

Follow-up calls are not only a benefit to the patient, they’ve had a positive impact on how patients rate their overall emergency department experience.

“Understanding each patient’s experience is one of our top priorities,” says Marchetto. “Our goal is to continually improve our processes in the emergency department so we are always providing excellent care to our patients and families.”

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Category: Emergency Medicine

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Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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