February 10, 2013

Losing wait: LMH works on cutting ER wait times

Goal is 15 minutes "door-to-doctor," head nurse says.

by Caitlin Huston

LOGANSPORT — Logansport Memorial Hospital is working to improve wait times in the emergency room after having problems with patients leaving before being seen.

For about the past year, the hospital has had problems with patients leaving the emergency room waiting room because of the long wait. Hospital staff say they’re addressing the problem by making the check-in process more efficient and by sending patients to different rooms based on the level of their illness.

Hospital CEO Dave Ameen said the hospital measured the wait time during the past 12 months and realized that a portion of patients who came into the emergency room were not being seen by doctors.

“We’re assuming that they get tired of waiting,” Ameen said.  

Janette Huntoon, chief executive nurse at the hospital, said the approximate numbers pointed to 20 patients leaving without being seen each month. She said statistics showed it was also taking about 46 minutes for the doctors to see them.

Every day the emergency room is staffed by one emergency room doctor and one nurse practitioner. There are four total emergency room physicians and three nurse practioners, Huntoon said.

Recently, Huntoon said part of the problem has been the hospital’s transition toward using electronic records for patients. She said it’s still taking some time for hospital staff to get used to the technology.

To address the problem, the hospital has outlined new goals to decrease the “door-to-doctor time” to 15 minutes, decrease the “door-to-discharge” time to 2.5 hours or less and decrease the number of patients leaving without being seen by 250 patients.

“We want to make sure that whenever any person comes into the hospital, that they receive their services in a timely manner,” said Vicki Byrd, vice president for planning and development at the hospital.

In order to meet their goals, Huntoon said they’re focusing on the processes.

That means when a patient comes in, they’re quickly taken to a room and their medical information is taken down there. Based on the level of their illness, the patient will either be taken to a room with a bed or with a chair.

“It’s almost like a fast-track system,” Huntoon said.

The hospital previously had cots in every room, which meant that sheets had to be changed on each bed before another patient could be seen, Huntoon said. That process previously slowed things down from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., which is typically a rush period for the ER.  

“That’s really when we are the busiest, ” Huntoon said.

After patients check-in, Huntoon said the hospital will also be designating areas for the acutely ill and less acutely ill .

She said they’ll also be sending nurse practitioners to help patients who aren’t as ill.

“We’re just going to use them more efficiently,” Huntoon said.

The changes were implemented in December, and since then Huntoon said they’ve seen an improvement in wait times.

“We’ve seen that really decrease significantly,” Huntoon said.

Still, Huntoon acknowledged that the goal of a 15 minute “door-to-doctor” time may be hard to meet.

“It’s a pretty aggressive goal,” Huntoon said.

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Pharos-Tribune eEdition, or our print edition