August 15, 2010
Connecting With Patients: ER Wait Times Via Text
MountainStar Hospitals Launch New Text-Messaging, Web Service
OGDEN, UTAH – People with less severe medical emergencies can easily find out how quickly they can see a physician at a local emergency room. All they have to do is send a text from a cell phone or iPhone® for immediate access to wait times at a MountainStar hospital or emergency center in their community. Regularly updated ER wait times are also readily available on each facility’s web site.
“We recognize that time is a precious commodity for families today and that the very nature of an ER visit can make it a stressful event,” explains Mark Adams, CEO, Ogden Regional Medical Center. “That is why we’ve taken our commitment to better serve our patients to another level by providing a tool that can save time and reduce anxiety.”
Updated every 30 minutes via an automated RSS feed, the ER wait times are a rolling average of the most recent four-hour time period. This service lets people know how long it will take them to see an experienced emergency room physician – not to be evaluated by a triage nurse or registered as an ER patient.
“Our goal is to deliver the appropriate level of emergency care to every patient in the shortest time possible,” notes Janet Smith, ER director at Ogden Regional Medical Center. “This is accomplished in part through our new service that literally places ER wait times at people’s fingertips, 24 hours a day, every day.”
It is important to note that the new ER wait times are provided for informational purposes only. People experiencing major medical emergencies including life-limb-or sight threatening injuries, severe illness, heart attack or stroke symptoms should still call 911.
Whether they arrive by ambulance or private vehicle, the severity of every patient’s illness or injury always determines wait times. Patients with life-limb-or-sight threatening issues are always seen immediately. Therefore, ER wait times are not a guarantee, but simply a means to gauge an average wait time barring the arrival of a patient with a more serious medical need.
How Texting Campaign Works
In several counties across Utah, people with less acute medical emergencies can check ER wait times before driving to a local MountainStar hospital. The new service tells patients how long they will wait to see a physician. The new ER wait times are accessible by texting a Utah County zip code such as 84057 to 23000 from a smart phone. Cell phone users can text “ER” to 23000 and then reply with a local zip code.
Seven billboards located along Interstate 15 in four counties are also displaying the regularly updated ER wait times. The electronic billboards are designed to alert people who live and work in the area about this innovative new service for patients with non-life-threatening emergency medical issues.
Reducing ER Wait Times
According to the CDC, emergency room waits have increased by nearly 50 percent nationwide over the past decade. In light of this disturbing trend, emergency room teams at MountainStar hospitals are committed to achieving an average wait time of less than 30 minutes. This is significantly lower than the average wait time in Utah, reported in 2009 at more than six hours.
MountainStar Healthcare launched the new ER Wait Times service in Utah as part of a more comprehensive initiative to address ER wait time issues, improve patient care in the ER and increase patient satisfaction.
All six MountainStar hospitals in Utah and Lone Peak Emergency Center are also streamlining and fine-tuning ER care processes to ensure that patients see a qualified medical professional as quickly as possible. Additionally, these facilities are taking steps to ensure that the ERs are well staffed, especially during peak times.
Mountain View and Timpanogos Regional hospitals were the first in Utah to utilize mobile technology and Web site updates to rapidly deliver ER wait times to local communities. St. Mark’s Hospital Lone Peak Emergency Center, St. Mark’s Hospital and Ogden Regional Medical Center recently began providing this new service, and the remaining two MountainStar hospitals in Utah will launch it sometime this year.
About MountainStar Healthcare
MountainStar Healthcare in Utah includes St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful, Ogden Regional Medical Center, Brigham City Community Hospital, Timpanogos Regional Hospital, and Mountain View Hospital, as well as a growing number of outpatient physician, imaging and surgery centers. www.notbiggerjustbetterhealth.com.