Quicker ER Discharges Thanks to Smartphones?

Most people who visit the emergency room likely don’t do so expecting the process to be a quick one. Beyond waiting to be seen and treated, there’s usually a wait for test results, which are typically the determining factor in whether a patient is admitted to the hospital or discharged. But, as Fierce Healthcare first reported, a new study published in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine found that smartphones could help to streamline that process. Specifically, researchers found that providers’ use of mobile devices to receive alerts about test results led to an average 26-minute reduction in wait time for those results, and therefore the provider’s decision about admission, relative to a control group that simply waited for results to show up in the hospital’s electronic health records system.

The authors of the study, which was conducted in the emergency department of a large Canadian teaching hospital, highlighted the importance of tackling ER waiting times: “Reducing wait times in the emergency department is an ongoing challenge,” they note, adding that “turnaround time for laboratory test results” is a contributing factor in delays. To that end, they examined cases of more than 1,500 patients who presented with chest pain; in such cases, tests of troponin levels are run to assess whether or not the patient is having a heart attack. While some ED physicians received push notifications on their phones when patient troponin test results were ready, a control group waited for the results to appear in the hospital’s record system. The results? “The push notification decreased time to disposition decision by a mean of 25.8 minutes,” though time in the hospital was roughly the same between patients in the two groups.

Overall, the researchers are optimistic about the potential use of mobile devices in the ER, though they caution that notification “overload” is always possible for providers in our smartphone-obsessed era. In general, the results lead them to “recommend the use of the push-alert notification system to improve flow through the ED” in patients who present with similar symptoms. Along similar lines, we pointed to an article earlier this year that chronicled the use of telemedicine in the ER at NewYork-Presbyterian Weil-Cornell Medical Center; since July of 2015, the hospital’s Express Care program has served as an option for certain patients who might ordinarily spend hours waiting to be seen and treated. Once they’ve gone through the standard triage process, patients have the option of receiving a remote consult in a private room from one of the hospital’s emergency physicians. The program, which the hospital will soon be expanding to other sites, has led to reduced wait times.

Click here for the article from Fierce Healthcare on the ER smartphone notification study.

Click here for the study from Annals of Emergency Medicine

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