PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Last summer, The Aroostook Medical Center emergency department adjusted its operations as part of an effort to enhance technology, improve the patient experience and strengthen security.
Hospital officials said earlier this week their efforts are paying off through a more secure hospital, shorter wait times and positive remarks from patients.
“Feedback from our patients shows that all of the little things we’ve done over the past several months are really starting to add up,” said Daryl Boucher, director of emergency services. “We hope that the changes we are working on now will continue to make a difference.”
The hospital had several goals in mind when the project began, including improving the flow of patients through the department and achieving greater efficiency. Boucher said that one of the most successful changes involves a triage process called direct bedding.
“With direct bedding, patients walk into the waiting area, and after a brief conversation with the central registration representative, are immediately brought to a patient room whenever possible,” he said. “We focus on getting the patient into a room, assessing his or her condition, and beginning care.”
Boucher said that he expects wait times to decrease, security to tighten and the flow of patients to improve even more over the next six months as a result of planned renovations. The entire entrance will be changed, more efficient work spaces will be created for staff, and the waiting room will be overhauled.
“This reconfiguration will permit better triage of patients and enhancement of the fast track processes, which allow us to provide faster treatment to patients with less serious medical concerns,” he said.
The hospital already has been tested in its efforts to keep the department’s wait times down. In January, TAMC saw a large spike in the number of people coming to the hospital with flu-like symptoms.
In response, the hospital tapped the day surgery department to serve as a temporary extension of the emergency department. Staff from the operating room, day surgery and recovery room helped take care of emergency department patients. Nonclinical staff worked extra hours to replenish supplies.
Boucher said that one of the more difficult parts of dealing with the surge in patient volume was determining when the emergency department could operate normally and when it was necessary to request support from other departments. He said that a technology upgrade will help make this process easier in the future.
“We will begin using a color-coded electronic bed management system to help us determine how to proceed when volume rises quickly,” he said. “Green means we’re at a normal status, yellow means that we may need to make some adjustments to our operations in response to high volume, and red tells us we need to act immediately.”
In the coming months, the hospital also will begin implementing a plan to shorten the time it takes to get patients who need to be admitted to the hospital into a bed in one of TAMC’s inpatient units.
In November, TAMC introduced new security measures at the hospital, including overnight lockdown of all entrances but the emergency room, out of concern about statewide increases in the number of patients who are combative or psychotic.