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Wait Watchers: ER Appointments Differentiate a Hospital Brand

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

ideas bulbEmergency Room appointments—for non-threatening care—are a flipping great idea.

Ask a few patients in the Emergency Department (ED). Nobody likes to wait. And hospital wait times are—for both patients and administrators—a literal and figurative pain in the butt.

And if you’ve “been-there-and-done-that,” the national average time patients spend in the emergency room before being seen by a doctor is…would you believe… 28 minutes.

Check the stats for yourself—by your state and by an individual hospital—at the “ER Wait Watcher” page by ProPublica. (By the way, this data is searchable down to the zip code and individual facility. Check your numbers.)

The length of time a patient spends waiting to be seen in any given is a highly significant “satisfaction factor” for the individual. What’s more, the nearest hospital might not be the fastest path to care.

As a recent personal illustration, a family member was instructed by her doctor that, to be admitted to the hospital, she had to go through the Emergency Room. The resulting wait was six hours.

No doubt the facility provided immediate care for others with urgent needs. But pulling all admissions—both urgent and routine—through the same department was inefficient for the hospital and exasperating (and exhausting) for the patient.

Admittedly, ED priority-of-care is challenging to manage, and wait times—even in the best of circumstances—can feel painfully long. But for my family situation and many, many others, the long wait would have been more comfortable, and far better tolerated, at home.

Online Waiting Example: UCSF Medical Center

Pulling order—and the convenience of advance scheduling—out of the ebb and flow of a hospital ED has become easier with Internet-based tools. There are several such services, but InQuicker is one that allows the prospective patient to check in, choose a convenient time for service, and wait at home. Similar scheduling support is also available for urgent care and physician offices.

We happened to pick the InQuicker page for UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco as an illustration, which also includes the facility address, phone number and a Google-powered map. Not all facilities participate, but those who do (in this example, UCSF) provide a differentiating service for the online public.

Benefits of appointed times and online waiting…

Differentiation for the hospital brand is significant. And, conversely, a long and uncertain wait in a busy ED makes a poor first impression, no matter how efficient they are otherwise. Getting people in and out efficiently and with a minimum of delay is a plus for the patient as well as the hospital.

Consumer expectations in the digital age now include “availability, timeliness and convenience of access to healthcare providers,” says InQuicker. What’s more, online scheduling and waiting is likely to lead to increased patient satisfaction, more efficient ED flow, and a distinct advantage in attracting new patients and revenue.

RELATED POSTS: For more on this topic, see our previous articles titled: Fast (or Free) Urgent Care: “Beat the Clock” Emergency Room Guarantees, and Case Example: Something You Haven’t Seen in Marketing ER Wait Times.

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