Penn State Hershey Medical Center showcases new Emergency Department

March 05, 2009

At a time when many organizations are expanding their emergency departments to match increasing demand, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is building a better way to deliver emergency care. Phase 1 of the Medical Center’s redesigned Emergency Department, built using a novel, patient-friendly model of emergency care that will reduce wait times and improve the delivery of emergency service, opened on Monday, March 2.

The model includes a no-waiting arrival area, where Emergency Department physicians and nurses triage patients to treatment areas according to the severity of illness or injury regardless of whether they arrive via ambulance or private vehicle. This innovative patient queuing and flow process will optimize resources, enhance staff ability to care for patients, and improve patient access and quality of care.

"Rather than simply building more of the same or expanding waiting rooms, we used scientific principles to study our processes and build inherent change in the delivery system—a better way to provide care for our patients," said Christopher DeFlitch, chief medical information officer and Emergency Department vice-chair. "This model lets us provide patients the right care, at the right time, in the right location, utilizing our information technology to optimize our limited resources by simply changing how we do things."

The Penn State Hershey Emergency Department sees more than 50,000 visits each year in a 24,000-square-foot space designed for less than 30,000 visits. Initial estimates to expand the space by 20,000 square feet came with a price tag of nearly $20 million.

DeFlitch and his team began working with the information technology and industrial engineering staff at Penn State-University Park to find ways to do more with less. Through a process called health care engineering, which applies flow modeling, queuing theory and advanced information technology to health care processes, combined with commercial, off-the-shelf software Microsoft Visio, the Medical Center has created a unique model that will improve access to and the quality of emergency care at less cost. By making care processes more efficient, the Medical Center needed to add only 7,000 square feet of space and spent less than $5 million on the expansion.

"As an academic medical center, our mission remains constant: to advance health care through research and innovation, and to do so in ways that benefit patients in communities throughout Pennsylvania and beyond," said Harold L. Paz, chief executive officer of the medical center. "This new model can be applied in many health care settings, so while this is an exciting day for our own Emergency Department, we believe it is also a critical step toward the future of health care delivery."

Phase 2, which will open in July, expands upon the health care engineering concepts with private patient waiting, a separate family lounge, and additional technologies supported by Microsoft Corp. and Orlando Software Group.

"By using commercial, off-the-shelf software, medical organizations can develop creative and flexible solutions to address health care challenges like patient flow without spending millions of dollars," said Jack Hersey, general manager of U.S. Public Sector Health at Microsoft.

To learn more about Penn State Hershey Medical Center’s new model of Emergency Care, please visit our Penn State Hershey YouTube channel.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009