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Should ED Wait Time Billboards Go Blank?

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, January 15, 2014

Hospitals have been using technologies like these in order to attract new patients as well as improve the patient experience by decreasing wait times in their emergency room, but, since more and more patients are using the emergency room for non-urgent care, it's becoming clear that this tactic is treating the symptom, rather than attack the systemic problem of directing patients to the proper access point.

Though a goal of healthcare reform was to shift people out of ERs and into family practices for preventive care, the expansion of health insurance coverage for the poor under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has resulted in a significant increase in costly emergency room visits, according to a study recently published in the journal Science. The 18-month-long study, which traced 25,000 low-income Oregonians who won Medicaid coverage in a lottery, found a 40% increase of emergency room visits among the newly insured.

The study's researchers found that the correlation between expanded health coverage and increased ED visits was so strong that it held true "across a broad range of types of visits, conditions, and subgroups, including increases in visits for conditions that may be most readily treatable in primary care settings."

While the solution here may seem simple—to educate the newly insured about their best point-of-care options depending on their condition—there's more at play. ER marketing is good for business; common emergency procedures, such as CT scans and MRIs, are very profitable for hospitals.

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2 comments on "Should ED Wait Time Billboards Go Blank?"


Eva Francis (1/17/2014 at 12:47 AM)
Excellent article

Stephen Moegling (1/15/2014 at 3:27 PM)
Provocative article! Healthcare seems to have its feet in different worlds [INVALID] one foot in the "old" way of driving revenue (fee for service) and the other foot in the "new" way of being reimbursed based on keeping patients well and out of the hospital (and ER). Thanks for the article. Thoroughly enjoyed.