Emergency departments handle serious and urgent injuries and illnesses, and patient care is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, many hospitals today are operating below capacity when it comes to healthcare workers. When hospitals can’t find nurses, doctors, and aides to supplement their staff when patient levels increase, patients receive a lower standard of care.
Improving the emergency department’s efficiency now can help to prevent this problem, but it takes some planning. This article will offer some tips as to how to get started.
Provide High-Quality Equipment
The emergency department’s existing staff won’t be able to operate at maximum efficiency if administrators don’t provide the tools required to do so. When patients’ lives are at stake, there can be no cutting corners. It’s best to have an emergency crash cart for each section of the emergency department, for example, and these carts should be inspected regularly to ensure they are fully equipped and able to move around freely.
Encourage Staff Members Not to Let Their Guards Down
In some emergency departments, entire shifts go by with only a few patients brought in for care. During these lulls, it’s common for nurses and other healthcare providers to let their guards down and take their time on tasks. However, this sets the stage for lower efficiency when it matters most.
Healthcare workers should be encouraged to stay on the ball even during lulls. It’s a good time to inspect the equipment, check on patients, and hone crucial skills.
Don’t Order Unnecessary Tests
Most patients who enter the emergency department will need to have at least a few tests performed. Ordering tests that won’t change the management of a patient’s condition can reduce efficiency, though, so it’s best avoided. Unnecessary tests can delay crucial decisions and leave patients waiting on results when they could be discharged safely.
Don’t Rely too Much on Computers
While it’s true that the recent advances in medical records technology are impressive, the emergency room is not the best place to rely on them exclusively. Doctors, nurses, and aides who need to share crucial information should seek out key members of the patient’s care team in person to avoid delays and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Employ Patient-Centered Care
Patients and their families are generally happier with the care they receive in emergency departments when they feel they are able to play an active role in the decision-making process. Happy patients are more willing to listen to doctors’ and nurses’ advice regarding their care, which means healthcare workers spend less time explaining tests and procedures and obtaining consent. Employing patient-centered care thus improves both department efficiency and patient outcomes.
Don’t Put Off Decisions
If a decision can be made at the moment, doctors should make it. Putting off the decision until later will only increase their cognitive loads and reduce focus, and it won’t make a difficult call any easier. This tip is particularly important when it comes to discharging and transferring patients, as it ensures the efficient use of hospital beds.
Start Making Changes
The best time to start making changes to support increased efficiency in a hospital’s emergency department isn’t when a huge influx of patients occurs and overwhelms the staff. It’s when the department is seeing low-to-normal levels of patients and staff members will have the time and energy to focus on getting used to new procedures. That way, everyone will already be operating at maximum efficiency when the next surge occurs.