ALBANY, Ga. -- Earlier this year, a local hospital opened a fast-track facility for patients with minor illnesses or injuries.
So far, the system seems to be working well.
On March 1, Palmyra Medical Center opened an urgent care center in the hospital's emergency department to help get patients with less severe ailments out of the building quicker so that more time could be spent with those in more serious condition.
"The sicker patients get more time spent with doctors and get better care," explained Dr. Gloria Kayfan.
A patient's condition is initially evaluated on a level system, with Level 1 including the most severe issues such as cardiac arrest, and Level 5 being abrasions or other minor conditions. The urgent care facility at Palmyra focuses on Level 4 and 5 patients.
"This is to get people who don't need to spend a lot of time in the emergency room to be treated quicker," said Dawn Singleton, Palmyra's emergency center director.
Once a person goes to the emergency room, he or she goes through the triage area and their severity level is determined. They are then evaluated by a nurse and a mid-level provider -- a classification which includes nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified registered nurses -- in one of the five exam rooms.
More than 90 percent of the patients seen at the center are discharged within an hour. Roughly 30-40 percent of Palmyra's patient population goes through the system.
Having the system in place not only means more time is spent on more severe cases, but more space is available at the emergency center to put those patients in.
"Prior to the fast-track system, we had non-emergent patients taking up the beds, so we didn't have the beds to put the sicker patients in," Kayfan said.
Patient care overall has also improved in the long-run.
"The quality of care we have given patients has improved," Kayfan said. "We have a lot more admissions, and total patient care overall has significantly improved.
"We've had an increased number of ambulances, and it has given providers more time with a patient."
On average, 100 patients are seen in the urgent care center each day. The average physician-to-bed time is eight minutes.
The urgent care center is open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. throughout the week.