Feature | September 11, 2006

EDs Boost Safety, Efficiency

Bon Secours Richmond in Virginia is the leading Catholic not-for-profit healthcare system, with four award-winning hospitals, a school of nursing and a medical imaging school. The system also runs numerous community outreach health programs and services. Bon Secours Richmond is one of the city’s largest employers with more than 5,000 employees.
St. Mary’s Hospital ranks in the top 10 percent of America’s hospitals for emergency care and offers comprehensive health services in a wide range of specialties. St. Francis Medical Center, the newest addition to the Bon Secours Richmond family, provides a broad spectrum of health services, including a 24-hour emergency department.

Inefficiency Limits Patient Load
One of the primary business goals at Bon Secours Richmond was to substantially increase the number of people seen in their EDs each day. This challenge included reducing patient wait times and avoiding the loss of patients who left without being seen. Obstacles to improving ED performance included inadequate tracking capabilities and slowdowns caused by paper-based documentation.
“We needed instant access to targeted information about every patient’s ED experience, so that we could accurately gauge our performance and make improvements,” said Robert Weisberger, M.D., medical director at St. Francis Medical Center. “This was critical to ensuring patient satisfaction and treating a large volume of patients efficiently on a daily basis.”
As an established hospital, St. Mary’s aimed to replace its unwieldy system of paper records with a solution that was much faster and more reliable. St. Francis had a different outlook — the new medical center needed to launch its ED with a modernized process already in place in order to provide a high-quality alternative to existing healthcare facilities in the area.
Both hospitals were also concerned about the risks involved in conventional documentation practices. Although staff members did their best to make sure patient charts were always accurate and up-to-date, there was no centralized monitoring or system-wide set of rules to ensure consistency. Doctors and nurses relied on handwritten records to determine significant facts such as patient allergies or treatments given previously. Every aspect of a patient’s visit to the ED — from the time required to get an individual into a treatment room to the final disposition of the case later that day — involved potential gaps in vital documentation and communication.

Instant Access to Critical Data
According to Dr. Weisberger, Bon Secours Richmond went through an exhaustive search process before selecting HealthMatics ED.
“HealthMatics ED had the most complete solution,” he said. “From top to bottom, it was the most effective package for patient tracking, order entry, data retrieval, charting, nursing functions, and other ED procedures.”
Jeff Burke, executive vice president and CIO at Bon Secours Richmond, adds that the solution’s flexibility was a key deciding factor.
“HealthMatics ED lets doctors electronically document a case on the go, while speaking with the patient — even if the discussion jumps back and forth from one complaint to another,” Burke said. “The data is instantly accessible to nurses and consulting physicians or anyone who will be interacting with the patient afterward.”

Saving Time, Improving Patient Care
Dr. Weisberger says that there’s no comparison between the time spent on paper-based records and the ease of use of the new HealthMatics ED system.
“Before, we had to waste a lot of time tracking down patient charts, physically carrying pieces of paper to various departments, and so on,” he said. “Now, if I order an X-ray, the request is at the nurse’s station instantly. No waiting at all.”
In addition, a patient’s chart is immediately available to all healthcare professionals involved in the case. Even consulting physicians outside the Bon Secours system can access patients’ charts quickly and securely over the Internet.
These features dramatically improve response time, help prevent unnecessary treatments, and can even save lives — such as in cases of patient allergies. System-wide documentation also helps staff quickly identify people who are dishonestly going from hospital to hospital seeking prescriptions for drugs.

The 30-minute Guarantee
The most public impact of the new system is a new St. Francis’ guarantee that care will be initiated within 30 minutes of a person’s arrival in the ED. According to Burke, the guarantee was offered in order to give patients more choices in a rapidly growing market and to establish the new hospital as a major healthcare center in the community. The system is over 90 percent effective, and, on average, most people are seen in 13 minutes. Furthermore, in only three months, the ED doubled the amount of people seen per day.
Since the implementation of HealthMatics ED, both St. Mary’s and St. Francis have seen significant improvements in patient billing and reimbursements from healthcare insurance providers.
“Nothing slips through the system anymore,” said Dr. Weisberger. “Every step of the ED process is captured with a simple click on the computer screen. We’ve already seen a 10 percent rise in billables at St. Mary’s and are anticipating substantially increased revenues over the next few years due to our improved ability to identify and document ED procedures.”

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