Preparing for an emergency
Canadian emergency rooms (ER) see approximately 15.8 million visitors annually. From 2010-2011, the average ER wait times in Canada were just over three hours. And, as you are aware, with a direct correlation between the amount of time spent in the ER waiting room and the perception of the overall service, it is vital to find creative ways to bridge this gap.One way to narrow the divide is to prepare ER visitors before emergency services are needed. This can help manage expectations, possibly reduce wait time and improve processes. The overall goal is to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction, and reduce duplication of efforts and therefore expenses.

Here are a few tips to recommend to your patients regarding possible future emergency room trips:

In preparation of a visit

Recommend to your patients that they err on the side of caution by preparing an emergency plan that may include some of the following ideas:

  • With each visit to the primary care physician, remind your patients which hospitals your facility may be most connected with, inform them about hospital specialties and encourage them to contact their insurance providers to inquire about their coverage in an emergency.
  • Ask your patients if they have any questions pertaining to needed medical information for caretakers. In caring for someone’s well-being, there is a lot of information that an outside caretaker may not know, like birth date or health card number. Give them a medical emergency guide as a simple way to keep medical information easily accessible.
  • Similarly, offer patients medical history diaries to keep immunizations and medications documentation on hand. Recording everything in a medical history diary may save precious moments in an emergency, especially when the ER is not associated with a primary care physician.
  • Provide or recommend that your patients have ER kits to grab at a moment’s notice. Distribute items and suggestions to help prepare the kits: a notebook and pen to document the ER experience, change for a pay phone or vending machine, hand cleanser, a toiletries bag for overnight amenities such as a toothbrush holder, deodorant and a hair brush, etc. Also think of bringing items such as nutty putty or a colouring book for children, as they can be valuable distractions.
  • Encourage patients to keep the lines of communication open with their families. This will help family members avoid confusing and stressful calls to the hospital. Recommend creating a call tree to streamline the notification.

Preparedness in a pinch
Family and friends can help, too, and are often witnesses to many emergencies.

  • Recommend to family and friends that in an emergency they contact the individual needing care’s primary care physician as soon as possible.
  • Explain to family and friends the value of a photo or video. A picture of where a fall occurred or a car accident may assist the doctor in treatment.
  • Remind them that another life (and time) saving measure is to be aware of all medications the ER patient is taking. If the advice above for preparation wasn’t heeded, encourage them to bring all pill bottles along. This allows the ER doctor the opportunity to make more informed decisions for treatment.
  • Encourage patients, family and friends to be actively engaged in the ER treatment by documenting the experience. Make note of the doctors’ and nurses’ names, time each person visited, stats and test results, medications administered along with their dosage, treatment and follow-up recommendations. This will help resolve any confusion that may arise and can be shared easily by family members.

Disseminating these tips can offer patients a semblance of control in a period of uncertainty, create a sense of collaboration between all medical treatment facilities and provide a piece of mind. If preparation leads to a more rapid triage assessment or a reduced wait time, then this contributes to the management of patients’ expectations. In effect, it improves the overall perception of the services rendered.

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