New ER Designed for Patient Satisfaction—Space and Processes Upgraded, Enhanced

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By Anne Stoltz

After an 18-month, $11 million enhancement project, Altoona Regional unveiled its new Emergency department this spring.

The department features modernized space and streamlined processes — all with a focus on high quality care and total patient satisfaction.

“The redesign makes visits more pleasant for those who need emergency care,” said Matthew Bouchard, M.D., chairman of Emergency Medicine. “The reception area was revamped, and changes to the department’s design along with technology upgrades have made the whole department more efficient.”

Today when patients enter the ED, they’ll see a more expedient check-in process. Patients are assessed by a medical professional at a greet desk and prioritized according to their medical need-to-be-seen.

“Patients also have prompt access to triage (assessment of urgency),” said administrative director Kim Corle, “and are often taken directly to one of our 51 private bays, where they may be triaged in the same room where the physician will complete the examination.

“With bedside registration and a computerized system, patients no longer have to completely register in the lobby before seeing a physician. We have upgraded every process to reduce patient delays, which in turn assists with more timely treatment.”

The ED sees about 70,000 patients a year. With the March closing of the 7th Avenue Campus, it was necessary to increase capacity within the department by 13 beds.

“The increase in bays and our changes in process have reduced wait times and improved the speed with which we can assess patients and give them the care they deserve,” said Dr. Bouchard.

In addition to physical changes, patients will also see a culture shift among the staff that has resulted in more efficient care in a quieter and less chaotic atmosphere.

“We modeled our approach after the best EDs in the country for patient satisfaction and combined their best practices with our own for an upgraded, patient-friendly system of emergency care,” Dr. Bouchard said.

The result is private and more spacious rooms where family members can visit with patients. The rooms are divided by walls rather than curtains to increase patient privacy.

Also, a “small ED feel” is created by separating both the physical space and the caregivers into five teams. Each team consists of a physician, PAs, nurses, technicians and secretaries who are assigned to a select number of patients.

“Patients will find this team approach to care less chaotic and confusing because they will be interacting with the same people during their course of treatment,” Dr. Bouchard said.

Since July 1, 2011, the ED’s average patient satisfaction score for quality of care has increased by six points. In fact, upward trends were consistently observed during the renovation process, with significant increases seen in the areas of nursing, physicians, teamwork and privacy.

“We use these scores to address our patients’ needs,” said Kim. “We’ll always listen to our patients and remain committed to providing each patient with the best possible experience.”

Whether you or someone you love suffers a broken bone or a heart attack, Altoona Regional’s ED is equipped to treat an array of illnesses and injuries. The department is staffed 24 hours a day with board-certified emergency medicine physicians and specially trained nurses.

In addition to round-the-clock clinicians, the Pastoral Care staff is available 24 hours a day to meet with family and friends and address their spiritual needs.

“I hope the community has recognized our dedication to building a better experience when an emergency visit is required,” said Dr. Bouchard. “We’re very proud of our staff, and feel our patient satisfaction levels will continue to reflect this commitment.”

For more information, visit www.AltoonaRegional.org.