Wait times at the emergency room be like the D.M.V.:painfully long. However that’s not the case at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs.
Dr. Sean Donahue is the director of operations for the emergency department at UCHealth Memorial, and he says, "Overcrowding in the emergency department is a national problem. The average wait time for a large-volume emergency room that sees over 100,000 patients a year, like UCHealth Memorial on average, wait times have been 6-8 hours, and that's just to see a doctor."
Eight-year-old Bridget Knapik hurt her foot due to a fall the playground last summer, and she remembers a few things about that day. "I was crying almost the whole way there. It hurt really bad, and I couldn't walk on it."
Her mom Corinna knew that X-rays were likely needed and took her to the emergency room at Memorial. “When we walked in the door, to the time when they actually saw her was about 5-7 minutes. It was fairly quick that they took vitals and all that good stuff, took her for X-rays and gave her a walking cast because she did sprain it."
UCHealth is behind this new work flow in the emergency department at Memorial Hospital that adds an additional doctor called the in-take physician. Dr. Donahue says "The new model is you can still be prioritized based on life threatening problems but then what will happen is you will see a doctor with in 5-6 minutes. This happens in the front of the E.R., (the intake physician) essentially sees everyone that comes in. It's great because about 15-20% of patients may not have a problem that needs absolute emergency treatment."
Those patients who don’t need emergency treatment can be quickly treated and discharged from the front of the emergency room, meaning those who need further care can be given more attention. By reducing wait times this new work flow is also making sure more people are seen, says Dr. Donahue.
"In the emergency room one thing we worry about are people who show up and leave because it's too busy. Some emergency room’s the numbers are 5, 6, 7, 10 even 15 percent, and that is a big chunk. We were able to reduce that number to less than 1% because they (patients) are being seen by a physician right away."
Bridget and her mom are fans of the new system, as are some of the biggest medical centers across the country who are taking notice, says Dr. Donahue.
"It's a been a model taking hold through emergency departments throughout the country. UCHealth Denver started this, we adopted it down here (about a year ago) and since then we have had big medical centers adopt the same approach and call us for advice on how to do it. The Cleveland Clinic, Stanford, Children's Hospital in D.C. these are all people who are very interested in this model we are doing here."
Remember, if you need to see a doctor and can't get into your primary care doctor, the urgent care is your next best option if it’s open because it’s less expensive than the emergency room.