Case Example: Something You Haven’t Seen in Marketing ER Wait Times

wait times We don’t know who gets the credit for this chain of ideas, but it looks like a case example of positive creative synergy at work.

If you haven’t seen what a few Canadian hospitals are doing, this may be an opportunity for hospital marketing professionals to pickup on a good idea…one that’s grown from another good idea. A hospital in Kitchener Ontario has launched an enhanced version of posting emergency room waiting times that you may not have seen.

The key word is “enhanced.” There’s a bit of a twist to this, so stick with us. This version is more informative than most we’ve seen. Here’s the synergistic chain.

First there were the (mainly US) hospitals that began posting ER wait times on their websites. It was a novel concept when it came on the scene a year or so ago. In short order the “wait time info” was also being published via text messages, dedicated apps, and even a few large highway billboard locations.

The technology, now fairly commonplace, enabled real-time listings, sometimes with a side-by-side comparison of multiple urgent care facilities for the benefit of prospective patients in the community. What’s more, having this information is a healthcare marketing tool and a means to evaluate standards of care.

These days, displaying current wait-time info is a common (nearly standard) feature for many American hospitals and websites. But, because the Canadian healthcare delivery system is different, the idea is less common across the border to the north.

Canada’s National Post reports on the adoption curve. “Alberta Health Services, which administers much of the province’s health-care system, introduced its version last July in four Calgary hospitals, as well as two “urgent-care” clinics in the city that are suggested as alternatives.”

But, taking the concept a creative step further, “St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener followed suit last week, posting wait times that are updated every 20 minutes, as well as statistics on the number of patients waiting and being treated at any given time. It projects wait times for the next six hours, as well, and lists alternative clinics in the area.”

The info on St. Mary’s Emergency Department Wait Times page is graphically bold, easy to read and more complete than most others that we’ve seen. In addition to the headcount data (patients being treated and waiting), a graph compares the near-real-time situation “now” with an estimate of “When is the ED busiest over the next 6 hours?” Conveniently, the page also provides a list of alternative Ontario Ministry of Health locations, as well as other information.

Click through here to see the page. It looks like this Canadian approach has synergistically expanded on a useful idea in patient care, hospital marketing and community relations.

How does this presentation compare to your hospital or others that you’ve seen? Is there an idea here that you can put to work?

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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