Ambulance drivers knew the entrance to the emergency department at Banner Baywood Medical Center (BBMC) in Mesa, Arizona, but most other people didn’t. So a major goal for its addition, which was completed two years ago, was a new entrance to improve access to the ED.

The other goal was to meet the demand for medical services in the area. The former ED was overcrowded with long waits and a loss of 14 percent of patients who left without being treated, said hospital representatives leading a facility tour of the department as part of the HEALTHCARE DESIGN conference being held in Phoenix. (Follow Twitter #HCDcon and live editorial coverage here)

BBMC serves a patient population with the highest emergency severity index (ESI) in its health system. Its demographics show an average patient age of 70. And the ED is further stressed during the winter when snowbirds come.

The 54,000-square-foot expansion nearly doubled the number of examination areas and has shortened wait times and curtailed the high numbers of patient who left without being treated. It has also improved patient privacy and patient satisfaction, as well as staff satisfaction.

The healthcare facility, which is hemmed in by a residential neighborhood, found resistance from people living near the buildings who did not want patients and staff looking into their living spaces. BBMC resolved the issue with window blinds that are permanently positioned at a 33 degree upward angle.

The hospital has also invested heavily in a technology infrastructure. Its electronic medical record system maintains records on all patients and clinical personnel are accessible by a communication system. Telemonitors strategically positioned throughout the facility provide translation services as well as access to physicians. And all rooms in the ED have been wired for telemedicine, but the program has not yet begun.

Since opening the expanded unit, BBMC has continued to refine workflow. Soon after opening the ED, for example, the hospital realized that the incoming desk and nurse staffing were in the wrong place. BBMC subsequently altered the configuration of the intake desk, moving into a centralized location that has visibility of all incoming access point and staffed it with a nurse.

A hospital spokesman says the process of refining will continue as BBMC seeks to improve patient care, cut wait times, and streamline workflow for staff members.