Fast Track? No, Super Track!

Step aside Clark Kent, the NP's got this one...  There's a new trend popping up in emergency departments across the country- the Super Track.  Replacing the Fast Track as the efficient method of treating minor illnesses and injuries in the ER, the new Super Track is all the rage.  What kind of superhero worthy changes can you expect to see coming to an emergency department near you?

If you aren't familiar with ER Fast Track, the Fast Track is an area used in many emergency departments throughout the country to quickly treat patients with non-emergent medical needs; think strep throat and finger fractures.  While medically complex cases occasionally make their way mistakenly into the Fast Track, most patients triaged into this area of the ER have simple medical complaints.  The Fast Track is usually staffed with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant rather than a physician. 

As nurse practitioners we all know that hospital administrators are never quite happy with the speed at which patients flow through the emergency department.  Hence, the Super Track.  The Super Track concept is essentially a redesign of the traditional Fast Track aiming to decrease the time required to treat non-emergent patients in the ER in addition to increasing the number of patients an emergency department is able to treat at one time.  Here's a look at the superhero potential of the Super Track and how it accomplishes it's goals.

Superhuman Strength

The Super Track's strength lies in that it is structured to handle massive volumes of patients.  Rather than assigning a patient to a bed, patients rotate back out to a waiting area while test results are pending.  This allows an ER bed to accommodate multiple patients in the time it would usually take to treat a single individual.  For example, say a patient arrives with a complaint of a sore throat.  The triage nurse brings the patient to Room 1 of the Super Track.  The nurse practitioner takes a brief medical history and orders a strep test.  Once the nurse performs the strep test, she guides the patient to a waiting area while results are pending.  This frees up Room 1 for another patient to be seen by the NP whereas in a traditional Fast Track, the room would still be occupied. 

Once the patient's results are back, in this case a strep test, the patient is guided back to another room, say Room 2, where a diagnosis is communicated to the patient and discharge instructions are given. 

Superhuman Speed

The structure of patient flow through the Super Track makes treating patients with minor illnesses and injuries fast.  By rotating patients in and out of rooms and making use of a waiting area for patients with results pending, NPs and PAs can treat many more patients in the same amount of time.  The patient volume for a single ER bed could potentially triple, or more.

Providers staffing the Super Track can expect tired legs at the end of the day.  Increasing the efficiency of patient flow will leave you running from room to room treating more patients than you ever thought possible on a busy day. 

Every Superhero Has a Weakness

Like every Superhero, the Super Track concept has its Kryptonite.  Although administrators love the idea of moving patients quickly and efficiently through the ER (cha ching!), an intense focus on speed can decrease patient satisfaction.  Moving from one room for an exam, back out to a holding area, then back into another room for results, diagnosis and a treatment plan can be exhausting, especially if you are sick.  NPs and PAs staffing the Super Track must walk a fine line between moving patients through the area quickly while also being thorough in their care. 

While some patients will be frustrated by being shuffled around in the Super Track, most will appreciate the speed at which they are seen and treated.  Who wants to spend the day in the ER, anyway?

The emergency department where I work is transitioning from a Fast Track to a Super Track concept this week. I will keep you updated on how it goes.

Do you work in a Fast Track or Super Track Setting?  What are the benefits and challenges of working in this type of environment?

 

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