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ED adds business center to wait area
Check reservations, learn about condition, or 'surf'
Patients and family members in the ED waiting room at Florida Hospital Celebration (FL) Health have more than each other's company to help pass the time while waiting to be seen by a doctor. Since March of this year, they can now e-mail friends or business colleagues, check on airline reservations, or educate themselves about the patient's condition in the business center provided by the hospital.
While the "center" is basically two computers and a printer, it has made a significant difference to people waiting in the triage area. "I have heard patients talk about it in the lobby," says Sandra Devore, RN, an ED nurse. "They absolutely love it — especially our business travelers. When they come in and wait in the lobby, they can keep up with e-mails and other business-related things."
Since the hospital is near Orlando, there are a large number of vacationing visitors and business travelers who present to the ED, says Deborah Laughon, RN, BSN, MS, DBA, CCRN, director of emergency services. "This has a lot to do with Disney[world]," she says. "A lot of folks come off the plane with a sick kid, and a lot of folks travel here."
While she and her staff continually work to reduce wait times, "we always welcome an opportunity to provide a distraction," she says. The opportunity to provide this new distraction presented itself when the lobby was renovated to meet the growing demand in the ED. In three years, the annual volume had grown from 35,000 to 50,000.
The center is located in a small area just off the lobby. "We have found it is used more than we ever thought it would be," says Laughon. In fact, she says, the demand has been such that the staff has been forced to put up a sign that says, "Please respect all our visitors and limit your time to 30 minutes."
The information technology (IT) department of the hospital helped set up the computers with a firewall so that Internet access was possible without jeopardizing the confidentiality of the hospital's own systems. Nevertheless, there is much they can do on the computers. "Patients or families waiting can get seat reservations or communicate with people all over the world in real time," says Laughon. "They will also be able to play games." In addition, she notes, the IT department has blocked out any sites that would be inappropriate for children to visit.
Patients also can go on the Internet and look up "whatever we tell them is wrong," adds Laughon. This action reinforces one of the hospital's main missions: patient education, she says. "If you're not sure you believe what our docs told you, you can 'Google' it and find what you need," she says. "That's a big positive."
A marketing tool
Each computer in the center also is a not-so-subtle marketing tool for the hospital. The home page is the facility's web site. "They can learn about all our services and who we are," Laughon says.
In fact, she says, marketing was a key element of the center from the beginning. The hospital marketing department arranged for local TV coverage before the center opened. "One of the key messages was that now you have the ability to make a reservation and get a seat assignment while waiting to see the ED doctor," Laughon says.
Laughon was interviewed for the story. "It is part of my job, because we are part of the community," she says.
Meeting the mission
While initial research told Laughon that very few EDs had a center like this, she believes it fits in nicely with her department's mission. "We want to do all we can, for example, to educate kids who come here," she says. The department's goal is 'door to doc' in 60 minutes, but that goal is not always met," she concedes.
Thus, distractions are important for younger patients. "We have little treehouses the kids can climb under, and some toy bodies — models of a boy and a girl — which, when you rub their bodies, show the organs underneath," she notes.
While making a world of difference for patients, the center has had little impact on the ED staff. "When something breaks, we call the IT people," Laughon says. "Once a day we turn it off and on. We've not had any issues other than [running out of] paper."
Part of that was by design, says Laughon, who notes that originally DVD players were considered as well. "We just could not use nursing staff to run it or help people use it," she explains.
The business center takes nothing away from their duties, adds Devore. "Plus, it absolutely helps the attitudes of patients and family members in terms of getting mad about waiting," she says. While no formal survey has been taken, "we've gotten a lot of positive feedback," Devore says.
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