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California hospital uses fast pass to speed transferred patients through ER

Lakewood (Calif.) Regional Medical Center has borrowed a concept from Disneyland to ensure quicker access to care for patients being transferred into the facility from urgent care centers or physicians' offices.

The new emergency room fast pass lets patients move through the ER faster, just as Disney's fast pass lets visitors cut lines for rides.

A red fast pass card indicates to ER staff that the patient has been transferred from an urgent care facility or a physician office within a 10-mile radius of the hospital. It also tells the patient's suggested treatment.

Patty Stierle, RN, emergency room interim director/disaster coordinator at Lakewood Regional Medical Center, discusses the new process, which was implemented around three months ago.

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: Could you describe the Fast Pass ER process at Lakewood Regional Medical Center?

Patty Stierle: The process begins when the patient is seen at any of the urgent care centers in the area, for example MedPost and physician offices. The provider at the urgent care/doctors' offices see the patient and determine if the patient needs additional care. The provider will then call our emergency room and have a transfer of care conversation with our ER doctor. The patient then will either be sent by private auto or ambulance depending on the acuity of the illness. The patient will receive a red fast pass card and any additional information that the ER will need. The patient will hand the red fast pass card to our registration clerk and the process will begin to move the patient quickly into the ER.

Q: How did the idea come about?

PS: Our business development department had spoken to many physician offices and urgent care [centers] as our part of our business outreach program. The physician offices and urgent care [centers] stated there was a need to create a seamless process for patients to move into the acute care setting. That is where the idea was started.

Q: How did you go about implementing the new process?

PS: Through our ER throughput committee which includes many people, ER administrative staff, ER physicians, business department staff, admitting staff and our hospital administrative team, we started the collaborative process. It was developed to give better care to our patients transferring in who have had some form of a workup, X-rays, lab work, etc.

In creating this process, it has created a collaborative environment with urgent care and physician offices, which in turn gives the patient quality care. The ER staff is always receptive to change and improving processes for better patient care.

Q: How did you approach urgent care centers in the area to get them on board with the new process?

PS: The process started with the urgent care and physician offices telling us there was a need. Our team came up with this process and we went back to them for additional input. Our business department was instrumental in connecting each step. The urgent care and physician offices were very receptive to the process.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the implementation and how did you overcome it?

PS: It really has not been challenging, but I would say finding the time to personally check in on the patient experience [of those] who are using the red cards would be great.

Q: What are the biggest benefits you have seen as a result of the program?

PS: The patients are getting the appropriate care from the urgent care and the ER, and that is how it should work.

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