Piedmont Newnan seeks help for ER wait times

The new Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Poplar Road has been open less than a year, but it is already experiencing wait times that have led to a new medical screening exam in the emergency room to more effectively serve patients with more severe conditions.

“Emergency rooms across the country have seen a continual increase in the number of patients who visit for primary care needs, and Piedmont Newnan is among them,” said hospital president and CEO Michael Bass. “As a result, patients are experiencing longer wait times.”

Hospital representatives said that in 2012, approximately 50,000 patients were seen in Piedmont Newnan Hospital’s emergency room (ER). This number is expected to be much higher this year as there has been a 54 percent increase in the number of patients seeking treatment in the ER since the new facility opened in May 2012.

According to the New England Healthcare Institute (NEHI), 56 percent of ER visits are potentially avoidable. As healthcare becomes more affordable and accessible to millions of Americans who are currently uninsured, primary care doctors, when available, should be a patient’s first stop.

In an effort to provide the best emergency care possible, Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Jan. 14 implemented a new medical screening exam policy in the emergency room.
The new policy requires patients arriving at the emergency room to complete a medical screening exam.

“It is important to understand we will not deny or delay care of a patient who has been determined to have an emergency medical condition,” said Sheri DeShazo, R.N. and vice president and chief clinical officer of Piedmont Newnan.

After completing the medical screening exam, patients who do not have an emergency medical condition and who would benefit from seeing a primary care doctor for symptoms such as hay fever, sore throat and ear ache will meet with a patient access representative to discuss options. Should the patient choose to wait and receive non-emergency care at the emergency room, the representative would then collect the patient’s insurance information and payment. 

“A visit to an emergency room can be stressful and expensive, and we want to do everything we can to make the patient experience as positive as possible,” said DeShazo.

Benefits of decreasing the number of non-emergent patients in the emergency room include decreased wait times, keeping patient costs lower and maintaining a high level of quality care by reserving resources for patients with emergency medical conditions. Use the following tips below to protect your family from unnecessary emergency room visits, hospital representatives said.

Advice for those visiting the emergency room include:

-Know when a trip to the emergency room is really necessary. Health issues that should be treated immediately include chest pain, stroke symptoms (numbness on one side of the body, face, arm or leg; trouble walking, speaking and seeing in one or both eyes), excessive, uncontrolled bleeding and difficulty breathing. Severe stomach pain that is accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing up or vomiting blood, dizziness or fainting and vision changes should all be treated immediately in the emergency room.

-Seek treatment at urgent care or walk-in clinics when appropriate. Anything from sprained ankles to sore throats and ear infections, cuts and falls can be treated at an urgent care or walk-in clinic, which is often open later than family doctors’ offices. Familiarize yourself with the local urgent care clinics in your area before an accident or health event occurs. Seeking treatment at one of these facilities for non-emergency medical conditions can save families significant time and money.

-Visit your family doctor. Seeing a primary care doctor regularly can save families hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run and can prevent you or a loved one from ending up in the emergency room unnecessarily. Regular visits with a family doctor also increase chances of early detection should a medical issue present itself.

-Come prepared. If it is necessary to go to the emergency room, be sure to have your health information such as current prescriptions, the primary care doctor’s name and insurance information ready whenever possible.