By Kevin Kelley
It was used to market home delivery of pizza. Now it’s being used to attract patients for emergency medical treatment.
With its new 30-minute pledge, St. John Medical Center is promising a sick person will see a physician in the amount of time it takes to watch an episode of “The Big Bang Theory.”
William Young, the hospital’s president, said the pledge was implemented for two basic reasons – to reduce patients’ waiting times while sick or injured and to improve the quality of care. Getting patients started on needed medicines or therapies will make them feel better sooner, he said.
“That’s going to result in better outcomes and higher quality care,” he said.
St. John Medical Center made the way patients are processed through the emergency room more efficient, but did not hire additional personnel to implement the 30-minute pledge, Young said. The improved patient flow significantly reduced the number of hours the hospital had to divert patients to other emergency rooms after reaching capacity, he added.
Roy Seitz, the hospital’s emergency department director, told West Life some procedures have been changed to meet the pledge.
“We’ve just been more acutely aware of the ‘clock ticking’ and have made huge efforts to see patients, get orders entered into the system and prescribe medication,” Seitz said. “Basically, we’re trying to get the ball rolling to initiate the workup and get relief for the patient.”
When the need arises, individuals often automatically go to the emergency room of a hospital where their doctor is on staff or has admitting privileges. Young said St. John’s ER will readily accept patients whose doctors are not associated with the hospital.
“We have a number of people who come through the ER whose doctor doesn’t have admitting privileges,” Young explained. “They’re assigned to one of our attending physicians.” Many individuals don’t have a regular primary care physician at all, Young noted.
Moving those patients who need to be admitted to a room is a priority for the hospital as well. “We try to get the patients through the ER as quickly as possible,” Young said. The time spent in the emergency department may vary depending on the ailment and medical tests required, Young noted.
If a patient is not seen by a physician within 30 minutes, that doesn’t mean he or she won’t receive a bill. Instead, a “service recovery component” will be introduced to the patient’s stay – meaning the staff will make an extra effort to make one’s stay more pleasant, said Patrick Garmone, St. John Medical Center’s director of marketing and public relations. The hospital also offers the patient a note card from the staff expressing regret that the 30-minute guarantee was not met, as well as a Starbucks gift card. To date, the hospital has not yet had to implement that, Garmone said.
Several other hospitals have implemented similar programs to ensure shorter ER wait times, Garmone said. St. John Medical Center ER wait times were under 30 minutes around 85 percent of the time already, he explained, so the hospital decided to launch a marketing program based on the pledge.
St. John’s emergency department is certified as a Level III trauma center, Garmone said, and is also a primary stroke center and accredited chest pain center. Not many community hospital settings have all three programs, he noted. The hospital also offers pediatric emergency services, affiliated with University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, staffed by specially trained emergency physicians.