"Technology's definitely taking over:" Local hospital drastically cutting down on ER wait times

NOW: “Technology’s definitely taking over:“ Local hospital drastically cutting down on ER wait times

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A startup technology company in Brookfield is revolutionizing the way hospital emergency rooms operate.

Telemedicine is a fancy term for video-conferencing with medical professionals, similar to a Skype call. A company called EmOpti is using that technology so doctors can consult with patients in multiple emergency rooms almost as soon as they walk in the door.

Maia Schwartz is a physician assistant in a room by herself yet she's helping dozens of patients across three hospitals. When patients arrive at ER's, triage nurses essentially determine how urgent the problem is.

"Very often you're told to wait. You can wait for an available doctor, wait for an available room to be examined, and that can be very frustrating," said Ed Barthell, CEO of EmOpti.

The most recent federal data shows the national average wait time to see an ER health care professional is 22 minutes. Barthell is a former physician who saw a way to lower that number. Therefore, he founded EmOpti which is short for Emergency Medicine Optimization.

In ER's that use the company's technology, doctors can be called within five minutes.

"They ask some questions and they're able to order treatments and order testing that needs to be done right away when you arrive at the emergency department," Barthell said.

Right now, Aurora hospitals are the only ones in the Milwaukee area using EmOpti. At Sinai, patients rave about the service. 

"I don't think I've been in here ten minutes. I took care of that and now she's waiting for me to do that. It hasn't been ten minutes. Great. For an emergency room to go like that, it's wonderful," said Aurora Sinai Patient David Strong.

"It's convenient for us to be able to click a button of a computer and connect with whomever we want to connect with," said Aurora Sinai Patient Kasde Kimble.

And beyond just convenience, the president of Aurora's Emergency Division says starting treatment sooner saves lives too.

"They get a physicians consult right away and we can say this patient is having stroke symptoms and we've been able to get them to the back right away," said Dr. Paul Coogan, President, Aurora Health Care Emergency Division. 

Not all emergency rooms are created equal, however. The Investigative Journalism Organization 'Pro Publica' keeps data on every Wisconsin hospital, including wait times to see a doctor, the time before patients are sent home, and how long it takes to get pain meds for a broken bone.

To see those numbers, click here

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