On Friday, October 5, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) CEO Dr. Ramanathan Raju announced significant progress in two key areas relating to patient care at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, CCHHS’ flagship hospital.
The average time it takes a patient to be seen by a physician at the Stroger Hospital emergency department has decreased by more than 60 minutes. The average wait time so far this year is 111 minutes, compared to 172 minutes in 2011. That’s a reduction of 35 percent. The percent of patients who leave the emergency department without being seen also has decreased from 12.34% to 7.88%, a 36 percent drop. These numbers were determined by analyzing electronic medical records that track the time a patient enters the hospital, is seen by a physician and when they leave. Nearly 139,000 people visited Stroger Hospital in 2011.
Both President Preckwinkle and Dr. Raju credit their collaborative efforts to improve patient services while also making strategic, data-driven cost reductions in the health system budget as the driving forces for the drop in ER wait times.
Doctors reduced the number of steps between when a patient walked through the ER door and when they saw a physician. They streamlined the process by teaming staff together, so a clerk could register the patient while a nurse asked questions to determine the level of treatment, thereby cutting the time it takes to receive care.
“It has been a top priority of this administration to identify ways to make the County’s health system more financially sustainable without jeopardizing patient care,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “While there is more work to be done to lower wait times in our emergency room, the drop in wait times is proof-positive that our approach is working. I am grateful to Dr. Raju and the CCHHS Board for their support as we work together to strengthen our vital public health system.”
President Preckwinkle and Dr. Raju have taken significant steps to reduce expenditures in the CCHHS budget while working to improve the level of care provided to County residents. In the 2013 Budget, CCHHS and the Administration have worked to identify roughly $91 million in major expenditure reductions: CCHHS will lower the costs of supplies by $25 million by joining the Global Health Exchange system which will offer better pricing. The budget also eliminates 365 vacant positions for $22 million in savings; reduces funding levels for other vacant positions by $14 million, and reduces $13 million in overtime based on additional hiring in key positions. The administration identified savings of $9 million through health benefit and medical malpractice savings; and reduced non-service related accounts such as advertising, travel, transportation for $8 million in savings.
In 2012, CCHHS and the Administration worked to identify $41 million in major expenditure reductions by reducing funding levels for vacant positions by $20 million, realized $14 million in savings from better management of healthcare benefit expenditures, renegotiated a contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to save $5 million, and streamlined IT projects to save $2 million.
“One of the main focuses of the hospital system is to put patient care first,” Dr. Raju said. “When wait times decrease, more patients have an opportunity to receive treatment, and have access to health services they might otherwise not have. I am grateful to President Preckwinkle for her continued support in ensuring the needs of Cook County patients is a top priority.”
The drop in these key areas at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital was facilitated by the President’s performance management program which tracks key functions in every county agency and department to identify ways to more efficiently manage resources. Since its establishment, the STAR Performance Management Program has increased visibility into the County’s operations and generated substantial returns through increased revenue collection, decreased costs and improved services.
“Performance Management is helping achieve President Preckwinkle’s goal of becoming the best run County in the nation. Central to that is an efficient and financially strong health system,” said David LeBreton, Cook County’s Chief Performance Officer.