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Taking emergency room visits to the 21st century

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on March 17, 2011 with No Comments

People typically do not enjoy waiting for things, so places offering services people desire or need have adapted. Hair salons set appointments and restaurants make reservations so that people can sit at home or go about their day and show up just in time to hop in the barber chair or be seated for a meal.

So why should it be any different when medical attention is needed.

Now, doctors’ offices set appointments, but for one reason or another, 119.2 million people visit their local emergency department in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart is trying out a new program that allows people who need to make a trip to the emergency room to jump online, view wait times and register to save their spot in line. The InQuickER service lets people with symptoms or conditions that do not require immediate attention to reserve their spot in line while waiting at home.

“We’re always focusing on service to our patients,” Mary Fetsch, director of marketing and community relations for St. Mary Medical Center, said.

“We want to make sure our patient’s experience here is the best possible. Giving patients the option to wait at home rather than the emergency department can help alleviate stress and make their experience more comfortable.”

A $12 million addition and renovation project that doubled the size of the ER at St. Mary came to completion in December of last year. In an attempt to enhance design efficiencies of the new space, St. Mary began to offer visitors the InQuickER service at the beginning of March.

“It’s about patient comfort and convenience. We want to make healthcare as easily accessible as possible,” Fetsch said.

“People may put off a visit to the ER because they don’t want to wait in the waiting room. This changes that.”

While this service does make a trip to the ER easier and less stressful for most patients, the staff at St. Mary advises those with traumatic injuries, or who are experiencing symptoms such as chest pains or signs of stroke to seek immediate medical attention.

Chris Song, director of public relations and brand strategy for InQuickER, said the healthcare field was experiencing issues with the public reaching a tipping point as far as how long they are willing to wait.

In 2009, the average time patients in the U.S. spent in the ER from the moment they walked in the door to the moment they were discharged was four hours and seven minutes, according to Press Ganey’s 2010 Emergency Department Pulse Report: “Patient Perspectives on American Health Care.”

Song said InQuickER is more than just an appointment or reservation setting service.

“What we do is we allow people to register for emergency services online, putting the whole registration process online, so that they are able to wait in line for treatment while waiting at home,” he said.

Use of this service does add $24.99 to a patient’s bill, but based on feedback collected from the 29 facilities throughout 10 different states utilizing the InQuickER service, Song said 95 percent of people who used the service were satisfied with it. Song said their data also shows a 97 percent success rate as far as meeting that 15 minute deadline.

Once a patient arrives at the ER at their “appointment time,” the emergency department guarantees they will be treated within 15 minutes or the $24.99 is refunded. But a patient’s appointment time can be pushed back depending on the number of people with life-threatening conditions who come to the ER, as they are given priority.

St. Mary Medical Center and IU Health in Bloomington are the only facilities in Indiana offering this online registration service.

“It’s a brand new approach,” Fetsch said, “that’s why it takes a little education for the public to understand it. It’s a new way to utilize ER services. It’s been really well received thus far.”

St. Mary is promoting this new service with flyers, billboards and even radio promotions, but in keeping up with today’s technology, Fetsch said there are codes on the promotions that allow anyone with a smartphone to scan the code and be directly connected to their Web site.

“We’re really taking ER visits to the 21st century,” Fetsch said.

“The more available we make it, the better it is for everyone. And the easier we make it, the better it is for everyone as well.”

For more information about InQuickER or how to utilize the service at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, call the hospital at 219-942-0551, visit www.comhs.org/stmary, or visit www.inquicker.com.

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