Emergency Department Uses Text Messaging to Tell Patients Approximate Wait Times
Emergency department wait times at Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Kansas are being sent to patients via a texting service that provides up-to-date information on the patients’ mobile phones while en route to the hospital, American Medical News reports.
"As people use their mobile devices more and people want transparency, this is just another piece of it," Doug Spear, administrative director of marketing and communications for Shawnee Mission, told American Medical News.
Shawnee Mission uses a system called ER Texting. Using a dedicated texting code, 4ER411, patients send a text message with their ZIP code in the body of the text. The system then responds back with the emergency department wait times of each hospital within the specified ZIP code that uses the messaging service. Wait times do not apply to life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical attention.
Before it implemented the texting system, Shawnee Mission considered using electronic billboards to display wait times as some other emergency departments do, but the medical center determined that the cost of putting up the electronic billboards was too expensive, Spear told American Medical News.
Since going live last March, Shawnee has received 200 to 300 text requests each month. The system provides a marketing opportunity by giving the hospital the chance to broadcast its wait times, which it considers to be pretty good at an average of less than 30 minutes, Spear said. The system also directs patients with non-urgent needs to the appropriate place for care and includes information about the hospital's urgent and express care centers for non-emergencies and the average wait times at those locations.