Should ED Wait Time Billboards Go Blank?

Marianne Aiello, January 15, 2014

Forget about touting short emergency department wait times. Reducing volumes of non-emergent patients in the ED is a higher-value pursuit.


Photo: Josh Hallett

The hospital marketing tactic of promoting short emergency department wait times is out of step with the swift changes in the healthcare industry.

Through billboards, websites, and mobile apps, hospitals have been promoting their speedy ED wait times to patients. In fact, new tools to help them do so are already making headway in the new year.

The nonprofit journalism site ProPublica launched its ER Wait Watcher tool in late December. The site calculates average emergency room wait times based on the most recent federal data compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It also uses Google mapping to calculate the time it will take to arrive at the hospital from your current location, even considering current traffic.

Another popular app, iTriage, allows patients to check ER wait times on their mobile devices. It also allows users to set up prompts that will check in with an emergency room and send notification that they are on their way.

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