Patient experience to improve in 2 areas

LEWISTOWN – With a projected cost of $3.3 million, plans to renovate the emergency and imaging departments at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital have been given the green light to proceed, hospital officials said.

Chief Administrative Officer Kay Hamilton said the main goals of the project are to improve flow and privacy for patients in those two areas.

There are two main problems with the way the adjacent departments are structured currently. First, the doors used by patients brought in by ambulance open into the registration area. Once through the doors, patients must be wheeled through the registration area and past a waiting room door before entering the treatment area. This creates a situation in which those in the registration area and the waiting room can see the patient, which not only reduces that patient’s privacy, but could also make the experience more stressful for other patients and families waiting to be seen.

The second problem manifests in the imaging department and the rear part of the emergency department. The imaging registration desk is across the hall from the entrance to the department proper. The desk is also next to the doors leading to the rear portion of the emergency department’s patient treatment area. The imaging registration line sometimes spills into the hallway, blocking the doors to the emergency treatment rooms. This creates a privacy issue for patients in both departments.

The renovation plans aim to resolve these issues.

“We’ve tried to do things a little differently,” Hamilton said.

The emergency registration desk will be moved to an area closer to the walk-in patient entrance. The space the registration area occupies now will become an enclosed waiting area, the entrance of which will not face the door through which patients arriving via ambulance enter, providing separation and privacy for both groups.

In the imaging department, the registration desk and waiting area will be moved away from the rear entrance of the emergency department. Nonemergency patients will enter the imaging area from one side of the department, while double doors on the other side will allow access to imaging from the emergency department.

“People will see the direct impact,” Hamilton said.

In addition to correcting these major issues, the renovations also will add new treatment and consultation rooms, as well as workspace, restrooms and break rooms for staff.

Hamilton said while the reconfiguring of these two departments will help to alleviate the congestion in the emergency department, it is the opening of Geisinger Careworks, an urgent care center, that hospital administration hopes will reduce wait times.

An urgent care center provides treatment to patients having non-lifethreatening medical issues that need immediate attention, such as a sprain or sore throat. The centers are typically open on weekends and stay open later than most doctors’ offices during the week. People in need of care who cannot get a short-notice appointment with their primary care physicians can go to an urgent care center, which accepts patients on a walk-in basis. Hamilton said urgent care center treatment is often faster and more affordable than a visit to the emergency room.

Careworks CEO Ken Berndt said the office planned for Burnham will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. In general, the busiest time at an emergency department is in the evening, between 5 and 6 p.m. Patient volume usually tapers off by the time the urgent care center closes.

“Careworks has found, in its 13 other clinics that are currently open, that volumes in that last hour of operation each day are generally the lowest of any time throughout the day,” he said.

Careworks is part of the Geisinger Clinical Enterprise and can be found online at The Burnham Careworks center is expected to open in 2015.