The Emory University Hospital Emergency Department nearly doubled in size in December to simplify treatment processes and cut down wait times for patients.

The department expanded from 9,900 to 18,300 square feet, according to a Dec. 20 University press release. In addition, the number of patient rooms increased from 19 to 34. The renovation process took approximately two years.

The National Center for Health Statistics reported that in 2010, 13.3 percent of emergency department visits around the country resulted in hospital admissions. In contrast, the Emory School of Medicine website indicates that the department has an admission rate of 38 percent, almost three times the national average.

“It’s really designed in an open manner,” said Kate Heilpern, professor and chair of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine. “There’s a great line of sight from where the clinicians and nursing staff sit and do their work so that we can see into the patient rooms.”

Heilpern also noted that Emory’s emergency department serves patients of high acuity or severe illnesses.

She said this often calls for advanced laboratory testing and imaging, such as computed tomography (CT) scans.

“As the volume of the emergency department has risen and the complexity of the patients has increased, we found ourselves really stretched for space,” Heilpern said. “We designed the emergency department really in a way that form follows function.”

The new expansion includes a CT scan machine in the department, which shortens the distance patients have to travel to receive such testing. Heilpern said this development also enhances patient safety and would prove especially important for patients with “time-sensitive conditions.”

“If we evaluate the patient and we’re concerned about a stroke, we’d like to get the CAT scan done as quickly and safely as possible so that we can then take the next step to give them life-preserving and brain-preserving therapy as needed,” Heilpern said.

The renovation also shortens the wait time for patients who have less severe conditions, allowing them to move through the system efficiently. However, Heilpern said the decreased wait time also requires collaboration among different clinical services in the hospital, like laboratory, imaging, consulting and admitting teams.

“If you are a young person who is playing a pickup game of basketball and you sprain your ankle, our goal would be that your wait time would be short, and there would be orders that would enable you to get an X-ray quickly,” Heilpern said.

Heilpern said the hospital administration worked with design teams, architects and engineers to allow the emergency department to function as usual while construction was taking place.

A formal ribbon cutting ceremony, dedication and blessing occurred on Thursday, Dec. 12.

–By Harmeet Kaur