In case of emergency: St. Joseph Mercy Saline Health Center pilots call-ahead ER
Editor's note: The lead photo's caption has been edited to correct the employee's title and the patient's name.
Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com
The “Call-Ahead ER” program is being piloted at the hospital, 400 W. Russell St. in Saline, for the St. Joseph Mercy Health System.
Patients call the emergency department at (734) 429-0200 to provide the staff with basic information and an estimated time that they’ll be arriving. The program launched at the end of November and is free to patients.
“In other emergency centers, you have to show up and sit in the waiting room for a while,” said Dr. Michael Baker, medical director of the Saline emergency department.
Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com
“We’re trying to keep that waiting room as empty as we can,” Baker said. “Patients seem to like spending wait time at home instead of in the emergency room.”
The advance notice allows hospital staff to better prepare to meet patients at the door of the emergency room, Baker said.
The Saline hospital is a good fit to pilot the program because of its smaller size and connections made possible through its affiliation with the St. Joseph Mercy Health System, Baker said.
Located 20 to 30 minutes from the west side of Ann Arbor, Baker said he hopes the program attracts patients in need of emergency medicine to the Saline hospital.
“It’s an underutilized jewel for the community,” he said.
The Saline hospital’s patient base is both surrounding rural areas and the west side of Ann Arbor, and often treats patients injured in horse and farm-related accidents.
“Most of the time we have a room ready for (patients that call ahead), although we can’t always guarantee that,” Baker said. “If we have a wait of half an hour or more -- that’s unusual -- (we) can tell them when they call ahead.”
Baker said patients typically don’t have long wait times in the Saline emergency room, as it’s a low-volume facility. The emergency department treats 1,000 to 1,200 patients per month, and has 12 main rooms with five rooms dedicated to senior patients.
The average length of stay in the Saline hospital’s emergency department is two hours, Baker said.
The program doesn’t guarantee patients a room in the emergency department as the staff still need to triage patients. Those patients who arrive at the emergency department without calling ahead will still be seen right away if their condition is dire, Baker said.
The program is a first for the St. Joseph Mercy Health System and the first of its kind in the area, as the University of Michigan Health System does not have a similar program for patients.
UMHS' two emergency departments at University Hospital and C.S. Mott Children's Hospital do take calls from physician's offices alerting staff that their patients in need of emergency care are on the way, said Kara Gavin, a spokeswoman for UMHS. The health system also has an electronic referral system that serves the same purpose in emergency situations, Gavin said.
The advance notice from physicians helps UMHS' emergency departments to better coordinate care and to more effectively triage patients, Gavin said.