Posting ER wait times online: Gimmick or service?

Writing for HealthLeaders Media, Cheryl Clark looked at the growing number of hospitals that are posting their emergency room wait times online.

Clark describes the practice as a “marketing strategy” that may help hospitals snag market share and improve the patient experience, and quotes physicians calling it a “gimmick” that may actually hurt patients by encouraging them to delay ER visits until the line gets shorter. Clark also spotlights a more disturbing version of the system, one which allows patients to pay online to reserve a spot at the head of the ER waiting line.

Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Ore., uses a system of infrared tags to monitor ER wait times and post them online.

(Another system) allows patients to buy, for $24.99, the ability to register online for a place at the head of the emergency room wait line at participating hospitals. The concept, called InQuickER—”Skip the ER Waiting Room”—was developed three years ago as a customer service program.

The patient prints out a confirmation number with instructions for what time to be at the hospital so they don’t have to wait.

So far, three hospitals have signed up: Emory-Adventist Hospital in Smyrna, GA, Florida Hospital Waterman in Tavares, FL, and Infirmary West in Mobile, AL.

5 thoughts on “Posting ER wait times online: Gimmick or service?

  1. Avatar photoRobert Lee

    I live in Tavares and have experienced the InQuicker system in place at Florida Hospital Waterman. Although it’s use is not meant for all circumstances (such as chest pain) it is a great alternative for illnesses that are non-life threatening such as the flu.

    I mean who wouldn’t rather wait in the comfort of their own home/bed rather than being forced to sit in a chair in the waiting room with a hord of sick people.

    The way the system works is you go online and preregister. The system tells you the wait time at that particuliar moment and if you register (with the charge of $24.99) it will give you a time and confirmation number to arrive at the hospital and from that time you are guaranteed to be admitted into the ER and be seen by a doctor within 15 minutes. I don’t know about you, but it is well worth it for me to pay the fee.

    Everyone knows that you could be stuck in the ER waiting room for hours on end; wouldn’t you rather be in the comfort of your own home? I think this is a great option.

    Also, this article is wrong by saying that it puts you in the front of the line because it puts you in line at the time you register just like everyone else but instead of waiting the ER, you wait at home. It is a very brillant concept in my opinion.

  2. Avatar photoAndrew Van Dam Post author

    This is in no way a commentary on the content of Mr. Lee’s post, but we felt compelled, in the interest of full disclose, to note that he posted from an IP linked to Adventist Health System. That’s the organization that runs two of the three hospitals currently using InQuickER, including the one in Tavares.

  3. Avatar photoTyler Kiley

    Mr. Van Dam,

    I agree with you: Any service that “allows patients to pay online to reserve a spot at the head of the ER waiting line” is quite disturbing! However, as Mr. Lee noted, the InQuickER service does no such thing: rather than allowing patients to reserve a spot at the “head of the ER waiting line”, we allow them to reserve a spot “at the back of the line”, just like every other patient.

    Low-acuity patients who use the InQuickER service wait just as long as low-acuity patients who do not; the only difference is that patients who use InQuickER are able to wait at home, while patients who do not use InQuickER wait in the ED waiting room.

    InQuickER is designed to reduce the inefficiency, frustration, and inconvenience of ED visits for low-acuity patients; judging by the positive feedback we have received from physicians, nurses, and patients who have been in contact with our service over the past three years, I believe we are accomplishing that goal.

    Given the fact that our service does not allow patients to “reserve a spot at the head of the ER waiting line” as is reported in this article, are there other specific concerns that you have about our service?

    Tyler Kiley
    Founder and CEO
    InQuickER, LLC

  4. Avatar photoTim Doerfler

    Hey, I have a great idea. Go to an urgent care facility instead of an ER. Brilliant!

  5. Pingback: Hospital sends ER wait times via text : Covering Health

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