As many readers of the Altoona Mirror know, part of the consolidation of Altoona Hospital and Seventh Avenue campus will involve combining two emergency departments.
Construction has begun, so this is a great time to discuss what we will be doing and how it will improve your emergency department experience.
Many national studies have shown that emergency care in this country is at its breaking point.
However, you don't have to read the studies to understand the nature of the challenges in our own community. We, like other emergency departments across the country, have been caring for many more patients than our department was designed to accommodate.
Due to the aging population, this increase in volume has been accompanied by an increase in complexity of cases. The result can be an emergency department visit that, from the patient perspective, seems confusing at best.
The consolidation of our departments is a great opportunity to redesign not only our facility but how we provide care. The outcome will be a much-improved experience for all of our patients.
Our new department will have 52 beds - 14 more than we currently have at the Altoona and Seventh Avenue campus combined. Every treatment room will be private. As a result, the care areas will be quieter - more like a doctor's office than a busy emergency department.
Let's walk through our future ED from the patient perspective. The first process change is an immediate greeting by a nurse, who will ask you questions about your illness.
You will then be taken to a treatment room. The triage and registration processes that currently occur in the waiting area will occur in your treatment room while care is started.
Once you are in a room, you will be seen by a physician or physician's assistant and a nurse. All of your care will be addressed by a team of physicians, physician assistants, nurses and technicians.
Your team will formulate a treatment plan and order needed tests.
New radiology and lab improvements will result in much quicker test results.
If you are discharged, the physician and nurse will go over your discharge plan. If you need to be admitted to the hospital, new computer systems and more nursing beds will speed your transition to an inpatient floor.
This walk-through is, I'm sure, different from what you have experienced in the past. This will become the norm rather than the exception.
By expanding our facility and improving how we provide care, we will transform your confusion into comfort.
I hope this overview has provided insight into our goals for the community's new ER and has renewed your confidence in our ability to care for your medical problems - both minor and life-threatening - as we move forward.
Matthew Bouchard, M.D., is the chairman of emergency medicine at Altoona Regional Health System.