Technology Helps Doctors and Patients Speed a Painstaking Process.
New technologies are revolutionizing visits to the emergency room (ER), resulting in reduced wait times, improved time management and faster treatment of serious emergencies.
In some locations, better communication has improved outcomes and efficiency in the ER before a patient even reaches the hospital. Providers, such as Dignity Health in San Francisco, have begun running commercials encouraging ‘non-emergency’ patients to make appointments online.
Patients with serious emergencies – those with chest pain, persistent bleeding or trouble breathing – are directed to call 911 or go directly to the emergency room. Those with less critical conditions, such as a sprained ankle or a fever, can make an appointment.
In some hospitals, waiting room kiosks allow patients to answer preliminary questions and check themselves in.
ER physician Dr. Matt Gratten says this provides a snapshot of what’s going on with the patient. “When you make it in to see the doctor, many of the routine questions have been answered and the information is on a computer screen in front of them. There’s less wait time, and your issues get addressed quickly.”
New vein finders with infrared technology and ultrasound help make patients’ ER experiences more expedient and comfortable.
“These literally draw a map of the veins,” says Dr. Kanti Bansal, an ER physician with Houston-based PhysicianER, “and we can find a viable vein on the first try. It’s especially useful for patients with vein issues caused by diabetes or high cholesterol.”
Other digital tools that keep track of patient records and medical history help physicians when those in need of medical attention arrive at the ER unable to communicate. Huntsville Hospital in Alabama created its own branded medical information app called Med-Info Keeper. It allows healthcare providers “one touch” access to patients’ medical history and personal contacts. The app also gives users the option of making certain information available in emergency situations.
“This is a huge advance in being able to provide efficient, accurate, patient-centered care,” says Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy, an ER physician and ThirdAge.com contributor. “You might be unconscious or unable to give information. With one touch on your phone, these emergency providers can know your name, birth date, relevant medical conditions, emergency contacts and possibly your advance directive. How reassuring is that?”
Dr. Williams-Murphy also touts online repositories for advance directives and living wills.
“No one likes a visit to the ER, so making the experience faster and easier is important,” says Bansal. “Often technology starts about 20 years before in some lab. When [it] gets to the point where ER’s all across the country have it, then, as a physician, I can’t imagine life without it.”