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3 Reasons to Market Your ED Wait Times

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, September 1, 2010

I know it's only September, but I'm going to call it now: Advertising emergency room wait times via billboard, website, smartphone application, or text is the healthcare marketing trend that will define 2010. The trend began years ago, but has recently increased momentum with the availability of customizable smartphone apps. Chances are if you aren't marketing your ED wait times already, you're planning to or at least thinking about it. But is it a worthwhile marketing tactic? Yes. Here are three reasons why.

Short wait times are a competitive differentiator
The average ED wait time in the U.S. is four hours and seven minutes and is expected to increase as health coverage expands, according to Press Ganey's 2010 Emergency Department Pulse Report: Patient Perspectives on American Health Care. This means that patients who plan on going to an emergency room to be treated for a less-urgent condition will be more likely to shop around to see which organization will get them out the door fastest. 

When MetroWest Medical Center in Framinghma, MA, launched an ad campaign promoting 30-minute "door-to-doc" ED service, patient volume rose 6%, hospital CEO Andrei Soran told the MetroWest Daily News.

"We know our customers are interested in how long their encounter in the emergency room is going to be," he said. The 360-bed hospital recently launched a text message alert to notify cell phone users of current wait times. Soran said he expects ambulance crews to take notice of this new feature as well, driving more patients to EDs that promote short wait times.

Hospitals must improve throughput
Making wait times easily accessible via the Internet, by text, or on billboards sends a clear message to all employees that an efficient ER is a key strategic goal.

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