Trial clinic helps patients avoid emergency department

A new clinic being trialled at the Royal Adelaide Hospital is helping dozens of patients avoid the Emergency Department, freeing up space for those who need it most.

The Respiratory Rapid Access Service (RRAS) allows existing respiratory patients who are at home and feeling unwell the option to call and access either a phone call, telehealth or in-person appointment with a specialist instead of needing to attend the ED.

The in-person clinic currently operates three days a week for acute but non-emergency care patients who are assessed by a nurse practitioner and a specialist respiratory physician. If a patient is too unwell, they will be directly admitted to hospital, avoiding the ED.

“We have designed the Respiratory Rapid Access Service to improve healthcare delivery to the people of South Australia and to offer an alternative to calling an ambulance or presenting to the emergency department. Our patients feel reassured that they have a direct number to reach the specialist service and speak to a respiratory nurse or doctor when they are feeling unwell,” said Respiratory and Sleep Consultant Physician at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Dr Emily Lawton.

“The service is also assisting in-patients across the hospital with earlier discharge by allowing them to receive specialist follow-up care from the clinic, freeing up additional hospital beds sooner.”

RRAS has been operational for 11 weeks and has already seen 98 patients. So far, the clinic has avoided 90 ED presentations and 42 hospital admissions and has conducted 142 patient reviews.
It has also helped facilitate 20 early hospital discharges and saved 160 bed days and 545 ED hours.

“I have found this new program most beneficial. Recently I was having problems with my lung condition and after calling the RRAS, I was given an appointment within two days,” said Respiratory Rapid Access Service patient, Vicki Rose.

“Being provided with initial advice and a quick appointment meant that my condition was assessed and treated before there was a chance of my condition worsening. It stopped me from having to call an ambulance and presenting at the Emergency Department to receive assistance.

“It’s very reassuring to know that the expertise from Dr Lawton, and her team, is available at the other end of a phone call. I feel as though I’ve got a home at the clinic and they understand me, my condition, and the most appropriate treatment options.”

Currently, the in-person clinic operates three days a week with the phone advice accessible five days a week. The clinic is being trialled for six months with opportunities to continue it and expand to other patients if successful.