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Sibley Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department Lets Patients Schedule Urgent Care

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Sibley Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department Lets Patients Schedule Urgent Care

Sibley Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department Lets Patients Schedule Urgent Care

Members of the Sibley Memorial Hospital emergency department team.

Christina DuVernay

Date: 12/07/2017

People needing urgent care in the Washington, D.C., area can now go online to schedule an appointment at the Sibley Memorial Hospital emergency department (ED). Rolled out in October, this new service has resulted in about 50 additional patients being seen in the ED each month without increasing wait times.

To schedule an appointment, a person visits a page on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website about the Sibley ED. On that page is a gray box labeled Wait at Home with available appointment times listed and a button to click to register for a visit. The idea is this: Rather than show up at the ED only to possibly face a wait, patients schedule an appointment. If there is a wait time until they can be seen, patients can spend that time in the comfort of their own home.

The registration process for urgent care is set up to reject an appointment for anyone complaining of an emergency issue, such as chest pain. “Those patients need to come to the ED immediately, and our system instructs them to do so,” says Jennifer Abele, medical director at the ED.

The service was designed primarily to serve patients with lower-acuity issues such as a sprain or a urinary tract infection, but some patients who come into the ED for a perceived minor complaint actually have a higher-acuity problem, Abele says.

The value of this service goes two ways, she says. “It truly puts the patient at the center of care, by making receiving care more convenient.” And the benefits for Sibley are multifold, with the higher patient volume in the ED only the start. About half of the patients who come into the ED this way are first-time visitors to the hospital, and about 40 percent have no primary care provider.

The opportunity, then, is to offer a great care experience that leads patients to choose the hospital and its providers for future medical services. “Once these patients are introduced to Sibley, we hope that they are more likely to seek care here in the future,” Abele says.

The Sibley ED, which sees about 40,000 patients annually, already was state-of-the-art, says hospital CEO Chip Davis. Featuring 22 treatment rooms and an additional six bays for fast-track patients with more minor complaints, it has its own CT scanner and digital X-ray machine to expedite care and a decontamination shower that can process as many as 100 people an hour in the event of exposure to radiation, chemical or biological contaminants. (See the video in the sidebar for an introduction to Sibley’s ED.)

“Adding scheduled urgent care is just part of our commitment to continually improve to serve the patient,” says Abele, who points out that even before the service was introduced, the ED’s patient satisfaction ratings hovered at about 97 percent. She notes, too, that the ED received the Lantern Award in August 2017 from the Emergency Nurses Association in recognition of its commitment to excellent patient care.

The ED has a commitment to see patients within 30 minutes. “We push ourselves to be the best, and these innovations are just the next step in doing what’s best for our patients,” says Abele. “We’ve streamlined processes, improved flow, introduced bedside registration and cut turnaround time for test results. The sooner we can see patients, the faster we can help them.”