How University of Pittsburgh engineers are combating children's ER wait times

UPMC's children's hospital has partnered with industrial engineers at the university to develop tools that decrease emergency department wait times, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report.

The engineering team developed indicators to show emergency room wait times, which are posted on the website of Children's Hospial of Pittsburgh of UPMC and update every three minutes to show how long patients will wait for the next available treatment room. The team also created a computer program that predicts surges in patient volume two hours ahead of time, which gives hospital officials time to adjust staff size as needed.

The system uses a computer algorithm based on past patient volumes to predict patient totals by hour, day and season. ER volume increases are generally anticipated during late afternoon weekdays, with peak numbers in the evening. 

Last year, the new hospital in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood treated 82,000 pediatric patients, an average of 225 patients a day, according to Richard Saladino, MD, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

A hospital official is required to log ER patient totals each hour, including patients receiving treatment and those still in the waiting room. The system was implemented last summer and is regularly updated to improve results.

A new system upgrade provides a surge alert when patient volume is 30 percent higher than room capacity. Adjustments will continue throughout the year, said Louis Luangkesorn, project coordinator and assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

"We are building a culture where we have even better communication with parents and patients to help take away some of the anxiety that comes along with coming to the emergency department," Dr. Saladino said.

More articles on EDs: 
Los Angeles County integrates emergency 911 text messages
Louisiana health system pilots program to reduce repeat ER visits
Virginia hospital finishes $12M freestanding ER

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