Inland Empire hospitals invest in speeding up ER care

This article originally appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

When Juana Mayorga went to the emergency department of Loma Linda University Medical Center this week, she was seen by a health care provider in about five minutes.

After hearing her symptoms — severe stomach pain — a blood sample was immediately drawn from her arm.

“Two or three years ago, we would wait four or five hours to be seen,” said Mayorga, 54, a San Bernardino resident.

“Things have really, really improved,” said her husband, Arman.

Across San Bernardino County, hospitals are focusing on ways to reduce emergency room wait times.

And they have been producing results.

A little more than five years ago, the average wait time at St. Bernardine Medical Center was 120 minutes, said Elizabeth Moran, manger of communications, media and advocacy for St. Bernardine and its sister hospital, Community Hospital of San Bernardino, both owned by San Francisco-based Dignity Health.

Then the hospital began an innovative course of action to develop and implement a streamlined process, called door-to-doc, Moran said.

Currently the door-to doc time is seven minutes for a patient to see a health care professional in the emergency department of St. Bernardine and 19 minutes at Community Hospital, she said.

About 80,000 are treated annually at the St. Bernardine emergency department while Community Hospital sees 57,000 patients, Moran said.

“Over the last year, Redlands Community Hospital has invested many resources to improve the quality of care in the ER, including strategic programs to help reduce wait times and improve the overall patient experience,” said Nikyah Thomas-Pfeifer, marketing and public relations manager.

“These programs include the addition of a ‘quick look’ nurse who triage patients as soon as they walk in the ER lobby.”

In addition, the hospital has created a tool to help patients navigate the ER process called the ‘Cares Card,’ a card that outlines the patient’s plan of care and provides a time frame of when tests and treatment are expected to be completed.

“The goal of the Cares Card is to establish expectations of when tests and treatments can be accomplished, involving the patient in the process once inside the ER department,” Thomas-Pfeifer said.

“The hospital also has established new patient-tracking and -timing systems to help improve ambulance arrivals and the triaging of patients once they arrive at the ER,” she said.

As part of its effort to continually adapt and respond while improving the care it provides, Redlands Community is also in the planning phase of an expansion of its emergency department, Thomas-Pfeifer said.

At Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, the emergency department has been set up to quickly get a physician with a patient, said Dr. James Kim, emergency services medical director.

“At this most critical juncture,” soon after arrival, the physician is looking for “subtle presentations of more serious illnesses that are more easily overlooked,” Kim said.

At that point, lab tests or X-rays are ordered, if appropriate, so there is little idle time for the patient, he said.

The Pomona Valley ER sees about 90,000 patients per year, Kim said.

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