Monday, August 20, 2012

Part I: Case Study Ellen— If It is Weds. Night I Am in the ER

Over the past four weeks I have spent three Weds evenings in the ER with a friend (two times with Ellen and one time with David). One time at Sibley Memorial Hospital (part of Johns Hopkins Medicine) and twice at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.  I wish that I could say that one experience was better than the other but the reality is that neither ER was what I had hoped.  They both shared some concerning similarities:

  • Both had staff who spent more time in front of a screen than with patients.
  • It was hard to know who could answer questions.
  • Getting admitted into a room required waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
  • There was no privacy...everyone hears all the HIPPA stuff seems irrelevant.
  • Cleanliness did not seem a priority.
  • Getting a glass of water was challenging.
  • The transition from the ER to a hospital room took too long.
The major takeaway is that people go to the ER when they do not know what to do or when there are no other systems to take care of them.  That certainly was the case for the patients who's assessment I could hear through the curtain that separated us: the person who had a problem with alcoholism and was recurring visitor to the ER, the person who would go to a psychiatric unit because she said she had no place to get her  medication, as well as the person who was in a nursing home and prone to falling.  

Everyone waited patiently because it was clear that the ER needed help.