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Lauren Drake is assisted by nurse Ginny Abram before being released from the emergency room.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Lauren Drake is assisted by nurse Ginny Abram before being released from the emergency room.

Hartselle ER treats patients faster than national average

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — How many times have you sat with your nerves on edge in the waiting area of an emergency room?

A study by the Centers for Disease Control found that the average emergency room wait was three hours and 12 minutes in 2005. To see a physician took 50 minutes, the CDC said.

A year later, another study said the average time patients spent in emergency rooms increased to three hours and 42 minutes.

These figures were released at a time when the average wait at Hartselle Medical Center's emergency room was less than two hours.

"The emergency room is the front door of most hospitals," HMC Chief Executive Officer Jeff Rains said. "This is where patients generally form their first opinion of a hospital."

The make sure it was above the national average, HMC looked at what was happening in its emergency room in 2006.

By using Pro-Med Clinical System software, the hospital tracked the movement of patients down to the minute.

"The results were positive," Rains said.

In 2006, the average stay for patients in the emergency room was 1 hour and 50 minutes, more than an hour below the national average.

The average time for seeing a clinical nurse was about 10 minutes. And, in less than 30 minutes on average, patients had been seen by a physician.

"Every day we tracked what was happening in the emergency room, and we still do," Rains said.

Rains said the software allows HMC to track patients in real time. From his office, he can check his computer to see how long a patient has been waiting in the emergency room or where they may be getting treatment.

"I check this daily, sometimes multiple times per day," Rains said. "If there is a backlog, I can send for additional help in the emergency room."

Rains said the most important figure HMC derived from the study was that the initial assessments for patients came on average in six minutes.

This is critical, he said, because patients are able to voice their complaint to a clinical nurse quickly.

The hospital's software also stores recommended treatments for certain conditions.

If the nurse enters a patient's symptoms as chest pain, shortness of breath and numbness in the left arm, the computer will suggest the symptoms as signs of cardiac problems.

"By knowing what to do based on what the computer says, a nurse can initiate the care process without the patient waiting to see a physician," Rains said.

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