Emergency Room Wait Times Impacted by Inadequate Asset Management

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Most people have experienced the sometimes excruciating wait times that come with turning to a local hospital emergency room for care in a time of crisis. The phrase “hurry up and wait” comes to mind, as the rush that typically precedes arrival at the ER is often followed by a nervous (or painful) delay in the waiting room as hospital workers try to effectively diagnose, treat or admit patients. In a recent study, wait times varied across hospitals from a respectable 11 minutes to a more discouraging 58 minutes. Many factors contribute to the differences, however, including whether a hospital is urban, suburban or rural, trauma rating, patient volume, missing equipment, and a host of other issues that make sense on paper, but only serve to aggravate patients waiting for care.

Each year, hospitals within the United States lose millions of dollars’ worth of vital equipment and thousands of hours of valuable staff productivity time as employees are diverted from their jobs to hunt down equipment needed for patient care. Even a simple task such as transferring a patient to a new floor can generate unnecessary delay if the nurse has to search the unit (or multiple units) for a basic need, like an oxygen tank or a wheelchair. It can quite easily create a chain reaction, as a patient in the ER must wait for the room to become available, and someone in the ER must endure further delay in the waiting room before seeing a physician. Lackluster asset management puts patient care and comfort at stake, as well as employee ability to perform their jobs at a high level. This sort of issue is what can make the difference between an 11 minute wait and a 58 minute backup.

It’s also why more hospitals are implementing improved policies and procedures to address the wait times, as well as working to expand patient capacity, increasing equipment availability, and deploying real-time tracking technology, fixed asset management software and inventory management software. Through usage of RFID and mobile-enabled asset tracking, the missing equipment side of the problem can be fairly easily addressed, as graphical displays, check-in/check-out functionality and depreciation capabilities provide medical facilities with the data they need to maximize the investment they’ve made in their equipment. And, really, it goes beyond the monetary investment; ensuring availability of equipment and supplies removes one more roadblock to excellent patient care, which represents the most important investment made by every healthcare facility.