Hospital proposes new way to ease ER wait

Emergency patients at Royal Inland Hospital could find themselves being streamed for treatment.

And that's a good thing, said administrator Marg Brown.

The RIH patient streaming project began this week with a goal of improving patient flow through the emergency department, and, hopefully, to reduce wait times in the process.

Streaming is being done between noon and 8 p.m. every day of the week.

It works like this: a patient arrives at the ER and sees a triage nurse, who determines how urgent the case is. Most patients who are not in a life-threatening situation or who don't have quick minor injuries will go to the streaming area, where a dedicated doctor, nurses and clerical staff await.

Brown said streaming patients will be those "too sick for minor treatment but not sick enough to have priority in the acute part of it."

Patient streaming has been in use at Kelowna General Hospital since November 2007. Statistics there show the streaming and minor-treatment areas were handling 78 patients a day - more than half of all visits in the emergency department.

The end result was a 30-minute reduction in wait times for emergency patients and 20 minutes for those who were less or non urgent.

The emergency department won't look much different; most of the change is in the way patients are categorized and handled.

Patients and staff have reported higher rates of satisfaction and fewer people leaving without seeing a doctor as a result of the program, Brown said.

"From administration side, there's increased patient satisfaction, definitely increased staff satisfaction as well. That's huge."

RIH already has a fast-track area for people requiring stitches, other minor treatment, or with health problems that can be quickly tested.

And major emergencies always get dealt with first.

The streaming should make a difference in wait times, Brown said.

"We're seeing large volumes of patients coming to emergency. In the last few years, those numbers have increased significantly," she said.

It's another way of addressing in a timely manner that group of patients coming to emergency, she said.

"This project will help us to continue providing the highest quality care possible, in a more efficient environment."

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