Mercy Hospital Fort Smith president: 4 ways to reduce ER wait times

As hospitals nationwide see an influx of flu patients and increased emergency room wait times, Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith (Ark.), discussed ways Mercy Fort Smith has worked to reduce these long waits in an opinion piece published in the Southwest Times Record.

Here are four ways the hospital has reduced ER wait times, according to Mr. Gehrig.

1. Mercy Fort Smith's ER patient volume surpasses 150 per day and over 400 some days when including patient volumes at the hospital's convenient and urgent care clinics. To address this high volume, Mercy opened the hospital's first clinic in January specially designed for patients with flu symptoms. The clinic's wait time is typically no longer than an hour and has averaged 30 to 45 minutes. The clinic runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

2. Mercy Fort Smith uses social media and media outlets to educate patients on whether or not they should choose the ER for care. The media outlets encourage patients who do not have a medical emergency to avoid the ER and seek treatment at primary, convenient or urgent care clinics or the flu clinic.

3. Hospital and clinic leadership added additional emergency beds when the hospital faced significantly high ER volumes. Additionally, the hospital's intensive care unit was expanded in the last year and a half and can now accommodate approximately 10 more critical-care patients. 

4. The hospital also added 26 medical/surgical beds to help reduce the number of patients waiting for a bed in the ER.

More articles on EDs: 
Los Angeles County turns to healthcare-on-wheels program to curb ER visits
WellStar Kennestone Hospital to build $126M ED expansion: 5 things to know
Tennova Hospital ER placed on lockdown after active shooter threat

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