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Hospital Hopes iPhone App Will Improve Patient Satisfaction, Efficiency

Ben Cole, for HealthLeaders Media, February 26, 2010

Proponents of The Hospital of Central Connecticut's newly available iPhone application that posts wait times at its facilities' emergency rooms say the information will improve both patient satisfaction and ED efficiency.

Every five minutes, the free iPhone app posts emergency room wait times at HCC's New Britain General and Bradley Memorial campuses. The app also provides maps and directions to the campuses, emergency room phone numbers, and general information about HCC.

"By letting people know what the wait is, we might be able to smooth demand and do ourselves a favor," says Jeff Finkelstein, MD, chief of emergency medicine at HCC.

"If we are behind at one campus, and no wait at the other, wouldn't it be nice if the patient selected the one with a lesser wait? It's a win-win: We set expectations and let people know, and on the backend maybe it's going to help us a little bit by smoothing demand."

In November, the hospital started listing emergency room wait times for both campuses on its Web site and on a flat screen television in the emergency room lobby at the New Britain General campus. The electronic lobby display also includes a rotating series of short messages with important information for patients.

HCC decided to post the information via an iPhone app for a variety of reasons, one being that a Flash player is unavailable on the iPhone so it is difficult to use it to find out the ER wait times from the Web sites, Finkelstein says.

"When you are mobile, with the iPhone it is a lot quicker to just press the icon button rather than try to get to the Web site," Finkelstein says. "You also have all the other benefits of an iPhone app: You have one button that will give you a map from where you are right to the front door of the ER, and with a push of a button you can call the ER right from the app."

The iPhone app also allows for easy access to other information about HCC and its individual campuses, including an "About Us" page that contains information on each of the ERs and what type of services are offered.

For example, pregnancy-related concerns are best served on HCC's New Britain campus where they employ an in-house, attending obstetrician 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Finkelstein says.

"I'm trying to give people information, so they don't go to Bradley if they have an OB complaint," he says.

By providing this information and making it readily available, Finkelstein says HCC can improve patient satisfaction. He adds that the number one concern of almost any patient visiting an emergency room is wait time.

With this information available at the press of a button, patients know what to expect when they have to make a trip to the ER and can plan accordingly.

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