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Reducing wait times

$4.8 million to reduce emergency room wait times and improve patient care

By Michelle Osmond

Canadian emergency departments have some of the longest wait times compared to many other developed countries.

Last year, Canada spent more than $253 billion on health care. Despite that amount, there are still challenges when it comes to wait times and patient outcomes.

A group of researchers at the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial hopes to change that with an innovative platform designed to lower emergency room wait times in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Developed at Carbonear Hospital

On July 12 Seamus O’Regan, minister of Indigenous Services, announced a joint federal-provincial investment of $4.8 million.

Minister O’Regan was on campus to make the announcement on behalf of Ginette Petitpas Taylor, minister of Health.

“It is my hope that this health innovation will ultimately prove to increase patient satisfaction and lower wait times.” — Seamus O’Regan

The program, SurgeCon, started as an app developed and tested at the Carbonear Hospital last year by Dr. Chris Patey and Paul Norman. And it proved worthwhile.

The app’s algorithm and protocol helped improve emergency department performance (e.g. door-to-doctor time, number of patients left without being seen by a physician and total patient length of stay), reducing the average wait time from 104 minutes to 42 minutes.

The results of the trial study were recently published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Minister Seamus O’Regan and Dorothy Senior, patient advisor, Faculty of Medicine, on July 12.
Photo: HSIMS

AI enhanced

Dr. Shabnam Asghari, lead researcher for the expanded SurgeCon program says that, because of the Canadian Institute of Health Research’s Rewarding Success Initiative, they can now expand on the localized initiative to implement SurgeCon across Eastern Health’s other facilities over the next four years.

“SurgeCon is now a compound intervention that includes an e-health component that uses artificial intelligence to predict overcapacity through real-time emergency department data such as bed availability, average wait times and available resources; a university accredited training program for staff; and a series of quality improvement and patient engagement initiatives to ensure patient-centric outcomes,” noted Dr. Asghari.

“Together, the components of the intervention will further improve emergency department efficiency and reduce wait times.”

Potential re-investment

The research project announced today is one that has been identified by patient partners as a priority and will benefit from the involvement of patients throughout its life-cycle.

If successful at saving money, Eastern Health has agreed to re-invest some of the savings in further health research.

“Congratulations to the health researchers receiving funding today,” said Minister O’Regan. “Our project shows great promise for improving the quality of care patients receive. It is my hope that this health innovation will ultimately prove to increase patient satisfaction and lower wait times.”

The funding, partly through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is part of a Rewarding Success Initiative by the Government of Canada.

The research is made possible by the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR), a series of funding partnerships between CIHR, provinces and territories, philanthropic organizations, academic institutions and health charities. At its core, SPOR is about providing the evidence needed to inform the development of health policies and improve the health-care system for patients.

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