Today in the chart

3 Cost-Effective Ways to Improve Emergency Departments’ Quality of Care

Emergency departments are under more pressure than ever to provide specialized care, but doing so can seem daunting. Here, 3 cost-effective ways to boost your quality of care.

Emergency departments (EDs) serve as the access point to hospitals nationwide. Despite physician shortages, an aging population, and the opioid crisis, ED visits are increasing more than ever. In addition, today’s EDs are under immense pressure to deliver a higher, more specialized quality of care. According to a document titled “Innovating Emergency Medicine” by HCPro, hospitals should consider innovative solutions that transform the quality of care instead of going beyond expensive renovations, hiring hard-to-find specialists, and adding inpatient beds. 

The following are three relatively low-cost solutions that some of the most innovative EDs are implementing today to change the way care is delivered positively:

The Problem: Due to shortages, specialty consults for emergency providers may be delayed many hours or unavailable. This concern is most prevalent in rural community hospitals, which tend to serve an older patient population that demands expert insight.

The Solution: Implement an effective telehealth program that can boost quality by connecting ED patients to the right care at the right time from the right provider. An example of this can be seen with teleneurology and telestroke programs providing EDs with 24/7 access to consultations from board-certified neurologists. In addition, with the help of telehealth “robots,” neurologists can use video conferencing to interview and examine patients.

The Facts: On average, telehealth programs save hospitals and health systems an estimated $1,000 to $1,500 per patient.

Expert Thoughts: “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.

The Problem: Studies consistently show a negative correlation between ED wait times and patient experiences. 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 developing a treatment plan, creating smooth and accelerated transitions.

The Facts: 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

Expert Thoughts: “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.

The Problem: An estimated 13 to 27 percent of ED visits could be handled through primary care or urgent care providers. Patients report lack of access to care as a significant reason for these types of visits to the ED.

The Solution: Encourage patients to utilize urgent care centers. These centers are often located conveniently with flexible walk-in hours, shorter wait times, and online check-in options. Similarly, tele-urgent care programs provide fast, expert care for acute illnesses and injuries via video visits.

The Facts: In about 80 percent of cases, virtual visits with an emergency physician can resolve the patient’s complaint, which prevents a more costly and time-consuming visit to the ED. Leading health systems have invested in outreach programs to encourage patients to utilize urgent care centers and effectively free up EDs for true emergencies.

Expert Thoughts: “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.

Subscribe to our M-F newsletter
Thank you for subscribing! Welcome to The Nursing Beat!
Please enter your email address