Ways to Prepare Your Emergency Department for the Holiday Rush

‘Tis the season for accelerated emergency department traffic.

For many emergency room clinicians, the cheeriest time of year can also be the most stressful, and we aren’t talking about finding space for your very own “Cousin Eddy.” We’re taking about the well-documented uptick in emergency room visits.

While increased ER visits are no laughing matter, a screening of the seasonal cinema favorite National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, combined with data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), can shed some light on why this spike occurs. From decorating injuries to culinary catastrophes, people seem to be more prone to injury during the holidays.

One data point from the CPSC reported that since 2009, emergency room visits due to decorating accidents alone have increased yearly. Using the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the CPSC also found a consistent spike in emergency room visits between Thanksgiving Day and New Years.

Outside of post-treatment education, there is little healthcare providers and ER clinicians can do to prevent such seasonal mishaps. They can however, alleviate some of the stress that comes with this most odd holiday tradition with smarter ED workflow tools.

Three Keys to Surviving the Holiday Emergency Room Rush

The added stress brought on by personal commitments during the holidays, combined with professional challenges can be a big contributor to physician burnout in the fall and winter months. A mismanaged holiday rush can also reflect poorly on an emergency department’s CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) grades.

On the surface, there are a handful of ways clinicians can relieve holiday work stress on their own. However, taking steps to find more comprehensive solutions to the challenges brought on by a seasonal increase in ER visits should be a priority for CNOs and ED directors. They may find help by examining these three key areas to streamlining ER patient throughput:

  1.       Creating Workflow Visibility
  2.       Improving Interdepartmental Communication
  3.       Automation

Visibility

Without significant visibility into patient, clinician, and bed statuses, hospitals may find it difficult to optimize ER throughput year-round. Even more challenging during the holidays, admissions coordinators can’t get up from their desk every other minute to seek out updates and clinicians are equally stretched for time with increased patient volumes.

A cloudy perspective of workflows combined with information inaccuracies can lead to mediocre throughput. On the other end of the spectrum, an omniscient view of workflows in real-time, supported by predictive workflow analytics can help EDs plan smarter and maximize efficiency. For example, by visualizing data trends, emergency departments can estimate  how many beds will be open during peak times and staff appropriately.

Communication

From ambulatory to admissions to nurses to physicians, communication between emergency care teams should be seamless. Often paper systems create bottlenecks because they involve a physical element that can be misplaced, lost, or overlooked. It can even boil down to bad handwriting on a whiteboard.

On an ongoing basis, and especially prior to the holiday season, emergency departments should take a close look at how information is being shared. At each stage of care, emergency directors need to pinpoint where blockages and breakdowns in communication occur. Once identified, standardized communication processes can help demolish these barriers to ED efficiency.

Automation

Improved communication and workflow visibility can help teams better work together towards a shared goal—improved patient experiences and maximum throughput. Traditionally this has been accomplished with white boards, patient kiosks, and similar tools, yet such solutions can come with a high degree of human error.

While, automation can’t completely remove human error from an ED process, it can help reduce the impact human error has on care completion.

A smart platform with predictive technology, integrated into a digital EDIS system can create a centralized hub for automated communication and workflow visibility. MEDHOST’s EDIS with OpCenter technology requires a less hands-on approach, can help manage time, and improve care workflows.

Before a highly-visual digital solution is written off as an unnecessary expense, consider how many patients an ED sees year-round. How many of those patients are admitted into the hospital? How many are discharged? What happens when these numbers increase because the emergency department is working more efficiently?

Whether they are going home or heading to a hospital bed, reducing patient time in the ER and increasing throughput creates more revenue opportunities for the hospital. More revenue can lead to a solid return on that EDIS investment.

In the next few months thousands of Clark Griswold’s across the U.S. will be scaling rooftops on rickety ladders and tossing frozen turkeys in deep fryers. A digital solution like the MEDHOST EDIS, with built-in visibility, communication, and automation tools supports both clinicians and patients—those who would rather be spending the holidays with family. Hospital leaders will also find reason to celebrate with more opportunities for increased revenue and improved hospital performance, and more patients getting the care they need.

Further Reading:

Video: EDIS Explainer

Blog: How to Leverage Analytics to Target ED Backlogs

Video: How MEDHOST EDIS Helped Optimize Patient-Centered Care at Springhill Medical Center

 

 

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