Online Emergency Room Appointments Reduce Wait Times

online emergency roomIf a medical urgency strikes your family, the prime concern you have is the quality and immediate care your loved ones receive when they arrive at the hospital. According to federal reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013, more than 20% of US residents make an annual emergency department visit.

Certain medical conditions such as heart attacks or any other life-threatening injuries are typically examined by doctors as soon they arrive at the hospital. However, in certain less urgent cases patients arriving at emergency rooms (ER) need to wait for long hours receiving pain medications and having different tests before seeing a doctor. In such situations, patients have little means to know how long they need to wait.

In an effort to reduce the overcrowding at healthcare facilities with long waiting times, a large number of hospitals allow scheduling emergency room appointments online. With the expansion of health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ERs in many healthcare facilities are reporting overcrowding. The wait times at some facilities far exceed the reported national average of 28 minutes. Presently, a large number of hospitals are allowing patients to make ER appointments online.

ER appointments are not meant for people suffering from serious disorders, for instance life threatening diseases and debilitating medical conditions. For instance, patients experiencing chest pain, persistent bleeding or trouble breathing can directly get entry into the ER. On the other hand, those with ankle sprain or fever have an option to schedule an appointment. Patients need to disclose in the online form the reason for their visit indicating that they can wait until their scheduled appointment time. Even in such cases, their appointment may be delayed if there are more seriously ill patients.

The new approach enables hospitals and its medical staff to know who may be coming through the emergency room door, thereby eliminating patient crowding and waiting times. It helps to build up a loyal clientele among patients as well.

Observers in the healthcare domain say that the new technology will boost patient satisfaction scores. Patients value the convenience offered by this online system as this will help them to know the correct time of their appointment thereby avoiding the emergency room crunch times. Streamlining the process of ER experience for patients is essential, but along with that hospitals need to assess patients quickly and improve communication with them, which may lead to better pain management.

Amidst all the arguments related to the benefits of this system, critics say that online scheduling of ED care is not a cost-effective option as this could encourage patients to seek care in expensive settings when they could be going to less expensive and urgent-care centers. If the new system is to deliver the right care at the right place at the right time, then people who can schedule appointments should do so at their physicians’ offices, as this would facilitate ERs to take care of people who have emergencies.