- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2016

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Hospitals in Milwaukee have implemented new measures in response to a new county policy that prohibits them from sending incoming ambulances to other hospitals.

In Milwaukee County, hospitals used to divert ambulances to other facilities when their emergency departments had a high volume of patients. M. Riccardo Colella, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, said that critically ill patients were being diverted to more distant hospitals.

“We needed to do better for the patients,” Colella said.

In anticipation of the rule changes, hospitals had begun implementing new policies before the official deadline and facilities have taken a wide range of approaches to make their emergency departments and admissions more streamlined so that there are fewer backlogs, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1qHuEjB ).

At the St. Joseph campus of Wheaton-Franciscan Healthcare, the health care system hired Virginia Mason Institute in Seattle to help redesign its processes using principles first developed in manufacturing.



One key change was getting patients admitted more quickly.

About 85 percent of the hospital’s patients are admitted through the emergency department. It set up an area in the emergency room to treat patients who show no signs of needing emergency care, such as patients with sore throats or who need medication refills.

At Aurora, meetings were held every two weeks for 10 months to prepare for the new policy, said Steve Francaviglia, who oversees Aurora’s hospitals in Milwaukee County.

Before the changes, for patients who didn’t need immediate care, X-rays and other imaging tests used to be sent in batches of three or four to a radiologist to be read. Now the tests are sent immediately. And when a patient was admitted, a nurse in the emergency department would call a nurse in the appropriate unit. Now those reports are sent electronically.

“We really looked at this as a whole,” Francaviglia said.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, https://www.jsonline.com

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