Medical center refines ER unit patient process

November 13, 2005|By BRADLEY OLSON | BRADLEY OLSON,SUN REPORTER

Six years ago, the Baltimore Washington Medical Center opened a new emergency room with the ability to treat 60,000 patients a year.

But within a short time, the capacity of the new facility at the hospital - then called North Arundel - was exhausted. Last year, the ER was treating about 219 patients a day, well above its capacity of 165. As numbers grew, so did waits, which ranged from one to four hours, according to the hospital.

Lately, the hospital has seen drastic improvement after implementing a new system for receiving and treating emergency patients, officials say. With help from a consulting firm, the center has an average wait of less than an hour, ambulance diversions are down to 22 hours a month and about 1 percent of patients leave without being seen.

Unlike the systems in place at some hospitals, which assume there will be a delay and often have patients go through triage, X-rays, blood tests and registration during their wait, the hospital's new method -dubbed "InstaCare" - assumes no waiting period.

Now at Baltimore Washington Medical Center, a screening nurse asks patients their name, date of birth, and problem and then sends them to a main area if they have more urgent needs or a staging area if they have more minor problems.

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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