What have we perfected in healthcare?

Wait times in almost every area of hospitals continue to increase nationwide—from doctor visits to surgery, emergency departments to imaging. Yes. In healthcare, we have perfected the art of making people wait.

According to Press Ganey, the average national wait time in an emergency department is approximately four hours. Four hours! While this might be different when you compare rural to metropolitan, the fact remains the same. Patients wait a long time, and when you don’t feel well, the last thing you want to do is wait.

Your hospital wait times can be improved if measured and discussed – with all the right people in the room. A discussion of processes and bottlenecks can help to set new goals.

Recently, I worked with a hospital to reduce the two-hour wait time from the emergency department to admission into a room. Much to the team’s surprise, there is a lot of people involved in that waiting time.

My approach to the situation was to gather everyone that had to do with the process, and determine the process and barriers that prevent moving patients into a room in a time-efficient method.

During the meeting, I asked everyone what they felt was an appropriate time to move the patient through the process. The overall consensus was that it should take approximately 15 minutes. As you might imagine, 15 minutes is a sharp contrast from the two-hour wait.

Once gaining group buy-in, we made it our goal to move patients into a room from the emergency department in 15 minutes. The process remained the same, but it took about two days to get it right by making sure someone was always “responsible” for the patient.

In just a month’s time, our changes resulted in getting the admission wait time reduced to just under 20 minutes. Incredible, isn’t it?

As with anything else, change happened because we decided to do something about it. With the appropriate measurements in place, you can track progress to determine if your solutions are working. That also includes asking for patient feedback.

Wait times can be changed for the better across your hospital if you work at it. Meeting with all involved departments, discussing the workflow, and making – and sticking to – goals will make a difference. Of course, as with anything, continued commitment is essential to making sure positive change stays that way.