Director Tyler White has a redesigned emergency department waiting room to show off at Blake Medical Center.
What used to be a narrow vestibule leading to an intercom system has become a carpeted open space with color-coordinated couches and chairs, a big-screen television and a reception desk manned 24 hours a day by a clinical staffer.
In the back is a small play area for children.
The irony for White: Thanks to Blake’s new emergency department philosophy, his patients will only see the new digs briefly on the way in and out. Only family members who accompany them will get the full effect.
The new philosophy — White called it “lean methodology” — should keep patients out of the waiting area by allowing them to receive a medical assessment from a doctor-and-nurse team almost as soon as they arrive.
“The question we’re trying to answer is, ‘What does a patient want when they come to a hospital?’ They want to see a doctor,” White said. “Ultimately, that’s the goal. We’ve put a lot of effort into making sure we’re addressing that for the kind of patients we have. They want to see a doctor; we going to make sure they see one as quickly as possible.
“This was designed for the sole purpose of maximizing the benefit of this process.”
Construction on the redesigned waiting room was completed Jan. 18, but Blake has been using the lean methodology since July 7, White said.
Patients who enter the emergency department are greeted by the clinical staff member, who enters their name into a computer and immediately ushers them into one of 18 exam rooms.
Once the assessment is made by a doctor-and-nurse team, a patient will either move on to a treatment room in the case of a serious medical issue or into a sub-waiting room inside the department. The sub-waiting room is for patients awaiting tests or those who have less-immediate need for medical attention.
Previously, patients were stuck in a waiting area outside the department until a doctor was ready to see them.
“The treatment pathway is decided from the medical screening exam onward. We don’t lose that time,” White said.
The new process has allowed Blake to decrease its average length of stay in the emergency department by about 48 minutes — from 180 minutes to 132, White said. The average time a patient waits to see a doctor has gone from between 30 to 35 minutes to 15 to 20, he said.
The methodology and its resultant efficiency coincided with Blake’s move to advertise its emergency room wait times. The hospital rented a billboard on Cortez Road, near 26th Street West, that updates every 30 minutes with the average wait time during the past four hours. The information also is on the hospital’s Web site and is available by texting “ER” to the number 23000.
Stephanie Petta, Blake’s director of marketing and community relations, said the hospital is happy to tout the new emergency department. At 5 p.m. Wednesday, the wait time was advertised as three minutes, which represents the time a patient would wait to see a doctor.
“They’re doing so much great work back here and making things so efficient, it makes sense you want to let people know,” Petta said. “You hope like heck that your scores are always good. Fortunately, I don’t think we’ve had a bad time up there yet.”