More than 20 hospitals in the U.S., including five in California, are now using the reservation system, said Chris Song, director of public relations and brand strategy for InQuickER.
Text messaging is another service hospitals are using to promote shorter waits at emergency departments. To use the service, patients just need to text ER to 23000 on their cell phone and type in their area code to receive the average wait times at hospitals in the local area (assuming they are registered for the service). The system works by linking computers in emergency departments with the texting ability of cell phones.
In late 2010, Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center of San Jose became the first hospitals in Northern California to adopt the system, which updates the average wait time at both hospitals every 30 minutes.
"Serious injuries, heart attacks, stroke symptoms – those patients should always call 9-1-1 immediately,' said Richard Newell, MD, Good Samaritan's ER medical director. "But for weekend warrior conditions and many of life's lesser injuries and illnesses, having this information can mean making the choice to drive a little farther to be seen a little, or a lot, faster."
Emergency department wait times became a hot button issue last year after a report from research firm Press-Ganey showed the average ER wait time at U.S. hospitals was 4 hours and 7 minutes. And with that average wait time expected to increase in 2011, it makes sense for hospitals to pursue new ways to make shorter waits at ERs an extra perk for patients.