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.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has sifted through the numbers in the 2006 report “Sports Injuries in Children Requiring Hospital Emergency Care” and come up with some interesting observations.
- Twenty-two percent of kids’ hospital visits came on account of sports-related bruises, scrapes and broken bones
- Three times more boys than girls needed hospital treatment for sports injuries
- Teens were five times more likely than younger children to need sports-related emergency room treatment
- In almost 99 percent of sports-related emergency room visits, the children were treated and released without hospitalization
Maryn McKenna writes in Annals of Emergency Medicine that the impressive recent success of rotavirus and pneumococcus vaccines has caused emergency room doctors to ask “Where have the kids gone?”
The vaccines, Prevnar and Rotateq, were introduced earlier in the decade, and their effects are beginning to be felt across the country.
The benefits of such sharp changes in incidence include not only reduced burden of disease but reduced health care utilization and cost; one 2007 study found that, thanks to Prevnar, annual hospitalization and ambulatory expenditures for children younger than 2 years shrank 45% between 1999 and 2004, from $688.2 million to $376.7 million.3 There are more subtle effects as well, some as simple as reducing the stress on a child and his parents because less blood work means fewer needle sticks during an ED stay.
Interestingly, McKenna found physicians worrying that colleagues who entered the profession after these vaccines hit the market would be underexposed to cases of the now widely prevented diseases, and may thus find it difficult to recognize them if or when they do occur.
Physicians who have been in the specialty long enough to have experienced the introduction of Hib vaccine in the mid 1980s, with its extraordinary suppression of bacterial meningitis, and the subsequent introduction of Prevnar, caution that success brings its own risks as well. The lower the incidence of a disease, the less likely younger physicians are to experience it in their training — and thus the more careful medicine must be to make sure certain procedures are still taught.