Satisfaction scores for the Springfield Regional Medical Center’s emergency department have improved and patient visits have significantly climbed in the past year.
Wait times to see a doctor also have been dramatically cut, according to survey data released by the medical center, and the hospital is looking to add services such as some trauma treatment and a chest pain center.
“Are we where we want to be? No, but it’s getting better,” said Conrad Brown, director of the emergency department at Springfield Regional.
Raising the scores has been a priority at Springfield Regional, Brown said, because low results indicated the community wasn’t satisfied with the care provided. It also affected employee morale and led to three physician groups running the emergency department in three years.
But extensive changes since last June have led to the higher scores, Brown said.
Patient satisfaction scores in the ER improved from 56.1 percent of patients saying their needs were always met last June to 63.4 percent by the end of December, a sign hospital officials said is important as patients have more access to information to determine where to seek care.
Overall, the satisfaction score was 52.2 percent at the end of 2013, up from 2012 when the score was 43.4 percent.
Many residents believe Springfield Regional is the only available option locally, Brown said. But the scores are important because patients can also visit hospitals in Dayton, Columbus or London, urgent care facilities, or even avoid treatment entirely, he said, meaning patients are increasingly able to shop around for their health care.
“Patients have a choice,” Brown said. “They’ve gone elsewhere.”
The scores show the percentage of patients who said they were completely satisfied with every aspect of their service in several categories, including communication with nurses, communication with doctors, pain management and communication about medicines. Despite the improvements, Brown said higher standards have already been set for next year.
“It’s not OK just to settle on that,” he said. “You have to expand on what you’re doing.”
The number of patients who visited the ER increased about 9 percent, jumping from about 75,000 patients in 2012 to about 81,700 patients in 2013.
The time it takes patients to see a physician has been slashed from as much as 61 minutes in April last year to 11 minutes by December, according to the survey data released by Springfield Regional.
Several changes have been made in the past year, including contracting with a new physician’s group, Canton-based Emergency Medical Physicians. The emergency room was also redesigned, allowing patients to see nurses first instead of security personnel.
During peak hours, the ER also uses a physician in triage. Under that procedure, a physician is stationed in the waiting room. Depending on the complaint, the physician can quickly evaluate a patient and determine what tests are necessary, slashing the time waiting to see a doctor.
He pointed out additional signs of improvement at a Springfield Rotary Club meeting Monday. More than 2,300 people left the emergency room for various reasons without being treated in 2012, but that figure was cut to about 1,400 last year.
The average length of stay for a patient visiting the emergency department was 203 minutes in 2012. By the end of last year, the average was cut to 189 minutes.
The success of the emergency department is important both for the community’s morale and its health, Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said.
“It’s an important tool for the citizens of Clark County to have available,” Detrick said.
The emergency department has 45 beds and sees an average of 220 patients daily.
The Springfield hospital was also recently recognized by Catholic Health Partners for earning the greatest increase in overall patient satisfaction in 2013 in the 23-hospital network.
CHP has set a higher goal of 63.5 percent for the hospital for this year, and Brown said further changes are planned to continue to improve patient satisfaction.
“We’re raising the bar,” Brown said. “We’re continuing what we’re doing and we’re adding on to that.”
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun digs into important health care issues in Clark County, and will continue to provide coverage of medical care and issues that affect patients in Clark and Champaign Counties.
By the numbers
9 percent — Percent increase in patients between 2012 and 2013
81,729 — Number of patients who visited Springfield Regional Medical Center ER in 2013
61.7 — Approximate minutes to see a physician at ER in April 2013
11 — Approximate minutes to see a physician at ER in December 2013
Source: Springfield Regional Medical Center