Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Increasingly, hospitals are viewing emergency rooms as a dependable way to generate new business. It wasn’t always this way. With high running costs and significant numbers of uninsured patients, trauma centers and ERs used to be considered excellent ways of hemorrhaging cash. They were a necessary inconvenience of running a hospital, the cost offset by the reward of, you know, saving lives.
That’s all changing. Now, the number of free standing ERs owned by hospitals or entrepreneurial doctors is growing to meet an increased demand for emergency medical attention. Higher patient numbers have necessitated improvements to the ER business model. Arguably, ER is now the primary concern of healthcare institutions, and with that new focus has come a whole heap of innovations to help things run more smoothly.
Chief among these innovations is the use of SMS to communicate ER wait times. Text message service providers are enabling groups of hospitals in a specific region to respond to patient requests for wait times. People in need of urgent care can choose their hospital according to how long they will have to wait, rather than simply heading to the nearest ER.
Apart from using services like ER Texting to advertise wait times, hospitals are discovering how useful such programs can be for growing their database of patients. Once opted in to a text message service, patients can receive future updates on healthcare provisions offered by any given hospital. They may even become a patient for life.
The value of streamlined, transparent ER-patient communications is obvious when you consider only 15 percent of trauma patients arrive via ambulance (according to Centers for Disease Control and Preventions). That leaves 85% of all admissions to emergency rooms arriving of their own volition, having chosen the facility personally.
Publishing ER wait times demonstrates the superior quality of an organization. It sends out a clear message: we take the patient experience very seriously. That message isn’t just for the benefit of patients, it’s also for internal staff. Physicians, executives, nurses, technicians – they all know what they have to live up to when wait times are easily compared with local competitors.
The future of healthcare provision lies with ongoing improvements in technology, but few could have predicted the degree to which it has already revolutionized emergency care. Emergency rooms and trauma units across the country have gone from being albatrosses around the neck of hospitals, to being core business attributes. And that can only be good news for patients.