Delayed access to care can be a trigger for malpractice litigation.
Prolonged wait times are tied to low patient satisfaction scores and negative online reviews, which can damage an emergency department’s reputation and impact its bottom line. Perhaps more significantly, long wait times may present challenges in defending against malpractice lawsuits involving patients whose condition may have worsened because care was delayed.
Why Long Wait Times Have Become a Problem
Named a national epidemic by the Institute of Medicine, primary care and emergency department (ED) crowding contribute significantly to the prevalence of extended waiting periods. The most likely settings for crowding include practices in urban areas, teaching hospitals, and those that provide boarding for patients.
Other factors that contribute to crowding and long wait times are staff shortages, prolonged stays, delayed imaging, and lab work. With the demand for emergency care increasing as they have been in recent years, the most successful and profitable health care providers take long wait times seriously and pursue strategies to mitigate bottlenecks and crowding.
And while occasional long wait times may not be avoidable, failure to reassess patients who have experienced excessive wait times may place additional liability on a hospital. Such failures have also led to several instances of premature discharge across the nation. Pressured care providers may be inclined to compromise care quality and attentiveness in their efforts to meet the demands of an overwhelming number of patients.
Conversely, physicians who spend an excessive amount of time with their patients also present a cause for concern. Recent findings suggest that spending an extended amount of time with a patient will not necessarily lead to improved care. A physician’s inability to effectively manage time can be an indication that the physician is struggling to provide effective care.
Ending Long Wait Times
Technology will ultimately play a prominent role in ending long ED wait times, as HCOs begin using data to provide faster, more accurate triaging and diagnoses. These improvements that allow for better management of patient volumes and resources rely on using data analytics tools to help establish and monitor compliance of standardized protocols.
A robust data analytics tool can also help decision makers identify bottlenecks, unnecessary testing, and suboptimal resource allocation to improve patient flow. Furthermore, reengineering the triage system and improving provider scheduling can significantly contribute to a reduction in wait times. These initiatives can both be enabled with the data many HCOs already collect.
Leaders are challenged to implement effective programs to address the causal factors of long wait times in the ED because they lack all the necessary data. d2i’s powerful performance analytics solution can help EDs understand the impact patient-flow patterns, staffing, and practice variation have on efficiency in order to eliminate bottlenecks and streamline processes. Learn more about how we help HCOs reduce malpractice insurance costs, operate more efficiently, and provide better patient care by contacting our business intelligence experts or scheduling a 30-minute demo.