An Innovative Way To Cut Down On Emergency Room Waiting Time


Have a sprained ankle, need stitches, or feel a cold coming on? Don’t want to wait for hours in the emergency room? You may not have to thanks to new systems being put in place by some area hospitals. Hospitals all over the country are now starting to use billboards, text messaging, and other types of technology to inform patients of the amount of time they will have to wait to be seen once in the ER. According to an article published in the Associated Press this week, this tactic is becoming a growing trend as ERs are getting busier and waits are growing longer. Hospital officials hope that posting wait times will decrease overall patient volumes, improve customer satisfaction, and decrease the amount of time that patients that need urgent care are required to wait for beds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ER visits have been at their highest with 123 million patients being seen in 2008. This is up from the 117 million patients seen only a year earlier. Furthermore, according to the Associated Press, last year Congress’ investigative arm reported that patients who should have been seen immediately waited almost a half hour and that trips to the ER lasted an average of at least three or four hours.

It is unclear how many emergency rooms have systems in place that allow patients to check average wait times. However, Dr. Nick Jouriles, the emergency medicine chief of Akron General, a hospital in Ohio, is implementing a study that will measure whether posting wait times will make a difference in customer satisfaction, patient volume, and the average wait times.

Medical experts and hospital officials stress that wait time technology should only be used by potential patients with non-life-threatening conditions, such as those with a sprain and a cold. In the case of a serious injuries or medical problem, patients should go directly to the emergency room to be seen right away.

I think that it is fantastic that hospitals are using technology to cut down on wait times, and I hope that the implementation of such systems will decrease the time that patients with life-threatening conditions will need to wait to be seen by a physician. Right now, there are patients that urgently need to be seen by a physician that are forced to wait in emergency rooms for hours and are not given the prompt medical attention needed. These delays can result in unnecessary complications or even death. Although I tried to find wait times for local hospitals, I could only find two that posted any type of information pertaining to wait times. I think our local hospitals need to get with the program and start using post time technology!