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Summa Akron City Hospital Tracks EMS Stretchers, Reduces Wait Times

The Ohio hospital is employing RFID to learn how long it takes for patients arriving at its emergency department to be transferred from stretchers to beds, which has helped it to minimize delays.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 28, 2015

Summa Akron City Hospital increased the capacity of its emergency department (ED) in 2012 to meet the demands of a growing number of patients arriving for care. To learn how much that expansion has improved the rate at which it transfers patients from ambulance stretcher to hospital bed, the ED has been using radio frequency identification technology to identify when a stretcher arrives with a patient, and when it leaves without one. The technology, provided to the hospital by Barcoding Inc., most recently has been used to identify the response time at the hospital for patients during the 2015 winter flu epidemic.

Akron City Hospital's ED treats individuals from approximately 30 municipalities for trauma, strokes or heart attacks. It serves an average of 270 emergency patients daily, for an annual total of 80,000 visits, with about 19,000 patients arriving in an emergency vehicle. That number has been growing (from 2013 to 2014, it grew 3.5 percent), in part because patients are more frequently going to the emergency room for treatment rather than for scheduled doctor visits. About 30 different agencies—such as municipal emergency medical services (EMS) and fire companies, as well as one private ambulance company—bring patients to the hospital's ED, wheeling them in on stretchers, also referred to as cots.

One of Summa Akron City Hospital's tagged cots
Patients (and the ambulance company or EMS staff) then await the availability of a hospital bed, at which time the patient is transferred to that bed and the EMS or ambulance crew can then take the stretcher back to their vehicle and leave. Akron City Hospital considers both its patients and the EMS agencies as its customers, says Jon Zalewski, the hospital's EMS coordinator. For the sake of the EMS units, as well as the patients, the facility tries to keep the waiting time for beds down to a maximum of 15 minutes. However, throughout the past decade, agencies were complaining that the transfer times were becoming longer as the department became more crowded.

Jon Zalewski
In 2009, the hospital began seeking ways in which to track that length of time, and to compare any improvements as it expanded the emergency department. The hospital tried to monitor wait times for beds, with employees posted to record that time, but found that it was difficult to collect data this way since staff members tended not to stay on that task.

"We had unacceptable wait times to transfer ambulance patients from their emergency medical services cots to the ED beds," Zalewski states.

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