Patients Get Relief As Hospital Cuts ER Waiting Time

Health Care
by Laurence Darmiento

Anybody who's been to an emergency room knows how crowded it can be, and how long it can take to see a doctor, especially for patients with relatively minor ailments.

Good Samaritan Hospital has decided to do something about the problem, and its effort is showing results, cutting by half the number of patients who exit the emergency room without seeing a clinician.

The Los Angeles hospital instituted a Fast Track program last month within its emergency room that shuttles patients with minor medical problems to two dedicated caregivers. That has cut waiting times for patients with minor problems from three to four hours to just about one hour.

"It was remarkable to me," says Phyllis Ahern, the hospital's director of emergency services. "Within the first two weeks we saw results."

While not releasing exact numbers, hospital officials claim that emergency rooms can see 5 percent of their patients leave without care after long waits.

Similar programs have popped up nationwide, but Ahern says that Good Samaritan's is more formal than many, and is not only offered when staff is available. Good Samaritan has committed itself to operating its program 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, peak hours for its emergency room.

For all the complaints from hospitals about ER-related financial losses, they remain the first contact many have with a facility. Thus, a patient soured on an emergency room experience may cross that hospital off the list when it comes time to find a place to give birth or have some other elective, money-making procedure.

Zynx Acquired

Web-based content may be a money-loser in many industries, but not in the world of clinical care at least not if the $22.5 million sale of Zynx Health Inc. is any measure.

Zynx, a unit of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was bought earlier this month by Cerner Corp., a publicly traded Kansas City company that is a leading provider of medical software.

Zynx provides medical information that doctors, nurses and pharmacists can use to improve the quality of care.

Its team of 50 employees, including 12 doctors, read, evaluate and distill information available in medical literature. The information is updated monthly in 25 major disease categories and most often accessed via the company's Web site. (An example is pneumonia, where doctors can learn the latest information on which antibiotics to prescribe.)

"Almost all the university hospitals are our clients. It really has to be a very rigorous analysis and evaluation for your top medical professors," said founder and chief executive Scott Weingarten, an internest who is Cedar's director of health services research.

Cerner plans to integrate the Zynx product into its software, which allows medical providers to manage billing and patient records, but Zynx will stay put in its Los Angeles offices near Cedars.



Staff reporter Laurence Darmiento can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 237 or at ldarmiento@labusinessjournal.com.

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