When a prominent Eastside community member suffered a relatively serious eye injury during a local basketball game, it seemed guaranteed that he’d spend the rest of the day in the emergency room. In Washington, the average ER visit lasts five hours. Instead, he visited one of Swedish’s Eastside freestanding ERs and was back at the gym before the game was over. “The freestanding ERs are built around a zero-wait philosophy,” says Dr. John Milne, Swedish’s vice president for medical affairs on the Eastside. “Patients are brought in and treatment is initiated right away. The average stay is 75 to 80 minutes.” Since only 6 or 7 percent of ER visits in outlying, underserved areas result in hospital stays, it is more cost effective to build standalone ERs rather than full-service hospitals. Swedish Medical Center led the way locally with the Issaquah site in 2005 and subsequent locations in Redmond and Mill Creek. MultiCare Health System opened a Covington site in April.
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