Access Management Advisor: Hospital slashes waits with bedside registration

30 minutes or less’ . . . or free theater tickets

Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center in Dearborn, MI, is using the slogan "we’re an emergency room, not a waiting room," and is backing up its claim with an offer of free theater tickets to patients who wait more than 30 minutes.

The hospital is part of a trend toward moving the emergency department (ED) registration process to the bedside or the back end of the patient visit, which is helping providers cut wait times while still adhering to Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) regulations, says Stephen Frew, JD, a longtime specialist in EMTALA compliance.

Over the course of 84,000 visits, the hospital gave out only 500 sets of tickets to a local theater production, says Frew, a web site publisher (www.medlaw.com) and risk management consultant for Physicians Insurance Co. of Wisconsin in Madison. The guarantee has expanded to all seven hospitals in the group with which Oakwood is affiliated, and the hospital is considering cutting the guarantee to 15 minutes, he adds.

Moving the registration process into the treatment area typically requires "a major change in attitude among physicians," Frew notes. "[Physicians] either don’t want to pitch in and be part of being more aggressive in expediting their work, or they have the idea that they would be seeing more people, which would bring in more nonpaying patients."

That outcome would differ from location to location, he says, but in the case of Oakwood, the new process actually brought in more paying patients. "The results were that people were coming from the suburbs, bypassing other hospitals to get cared for there."