Auburn Works

Auburn Technical Assistance Center (ATAC)

How does your hospital reduce the time spent in the Emergency Department?

If you walk into almost any ED in the US and you can see one or more of the following scenarios:

  • Ambulances Being Diverted
  • Crowded Waiting Rooms
  • Long Wait Times
  • Patients Who Leave Without Being Seen
  • Stressed and Agitated Staff
  • Patients Waiting for Test Results
  • Patients Parked in the ED for Hours While Waiting to be Admitted
  • Very Unhappy Patients

The ED sees patients in priority order based on the type and severity of the medical complaint.  The patient with the most serious problems needs to be seen first.  This is without a doubt the way the ED should function.   

The waiting time at the ED has increased over the years because of the number of patients is typically increasing each year.  In 2009, the ED average time per patient was lowest in South Dakota at 2.75 hours and highest in Utah at 6.4 hours. 

A Lean Healthcare approach is needed to reduce the ED patient time.  The ED patient time is from the time you enter the ED until you are discharged.

A recent “Rapid Improvement Event” in an ED showed the following time breakdown:

  • Value Added Time                          18%
  • Non-Value Added Time                    40%
  • Wait Time                                      14%
  • Travel                                              8%
  • Inspection                                        6%
  • Under Utilization                              18%

As you can see, the non-value time resulted in 40% of the total time.  This shows process steps that have potential to reduce the average ED time. You must eliminate or reduce process steps that don’t add value. In addition, you need to study the wait time, travel, inspection and underutilization to minimize time requirements with maximization of the staff.

No patient is satisfied with long ED times.  It becomes obvious when the ED staff is trying to work efficiently and do an excellent job in resolving medical problems.  When the staff is working with the customer (patient), most patients will leave the ED with good feelings about their experience.  Long drawn out visits with little or no flow can easily be seen by the patient.

The best solution to ED time problem is a Lean Healthcare training approach and a dedicated team that is focused on reducing the ED time.

If I can be of help, please give me (John Hayes) a call at 1-334-844-3858 at Auburn University at the Alabama Technical Assistance Center (ATAC).  ATAC trains hospital employees in Lean Healthcare and we can also assist you in the ED to insure your Lean program gets the proper start and ultimately good results.


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