Is it a marketing move or a genuine attempt to change the hectic conditions in already stressed out emergency rooms? According to the AP wire, several large suburban hospitals are advertising their wait times by billboard and even text message, to encourage less urgent patient emergencies to visit emergency rooms with lower volumes and quicker wait times. "If you're in a car accident, you're not going to flip open your iPhone and see what the wait times are," says Dr. Sandra Schneider, President-Elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Sassy note to the doc: iPhones don't flip. Also, I don't think it's such a bad idea.
I've only been to the emergency room once, luckily, and it wasn't something completely urgent. I would have liked some kind of heads up about the wait time. "The longer people stay in the emergency department, the more likely they're going to have complications," says Dr. Nick Jouriles, Emergency Medicine Chief at Akron General Hospital in Ohio, among the hospitals that post estimated wait times. With that in mind, it seems like a great idea to let people know where the fastest wait time is going to be, even if it means driving a little further, if your emergency isn't a full 9-1-1.
By 2012 Emergency Rooms will have to report to Medicare how fast they move certain patients through, in an attempt to increase care across the board. In 2008, 123 million people were in the emergency room. Anything that will increase the quality of care to those millions, whether it's a billboard, text message, or a digital clock, is a positive.