ED Services Still a Selling Point in 2011

Doug Desjardins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 12, 2011

Promoting emergency department services was one of the hot trends of 2010. And that's likely to continue in 2011 as hospitals and their partners continue to create new services that improve access to care and patient satisfaction.

One of the most innovative new services was developed by InQuickER, a Tennessee-based company that promotes emergency room reservations. JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio, California adopted the system last fall and is now scheduling nearly one appointment a day.

"We scheduled 13 appointments in the October-November period and had 19 in December," said Linda Evans, director of physician and community development for JFK Memorial. "So we saw the number of reservations almost double in December."

A key to driving more traffic was lowering the "convenience fee" for making a reservation, which encourages patients to follow through on their appointment and generates ancillary revenue. Evans said JFK lowered its appointment fee from $24.95 to $9.95 after an analysis of Web-site traffic showed many people lost interest in making appointments after seeing the original fee. The hospital also launched a major ad campaign last month to publicize ER appointments.

"We're advertising the service with TV commercials and we have a billboard that just went up on the highway," said Evans. "And we're even using digital ads at the Palm Springs airport." She said the service isn't seen as a big revenue generator but will help raise JFK Memorial's reputation for innovation. "We think it improves patient satisfaction and should help shorten our ER wait times."

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