Hospitals' ER Wait Times Online, on Billboards

HCA hospitals in North Texas use technology to inform patients

By Sara Story
|  Monday, May 2, 2011  |  Updated 6:28 PM CDT
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Technology is helping North Texans avoid long waiting lines at the emergency room.

Sara Story, NBCDFW.com

Technology is helping North Texans avoid long waiting lines at the emergency room.

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Technology is helping North Texans avoid long waiting lines at the emergency room.

The North Texas hospitals of HCA, a national hospital chain, are using digital billboards and online means to update wait times.
 
"Patients who are seeking emergency care need to have some options," said Scott Domingue, director of Denton Regional Medical Center's emergency services. "They need to have some idea of how long it is going to take for them to wait to see a provider when they get to the emergency department."

Domingue said his hospital, along with eight other HCA North Texas Hospitals, turned to modern means to update patients on wait times.

"The more transparency that we have holds us accountable to our patients and provides more choice," he said.

Patients can compare facilities on the FASTERTX website, where wait times are updated every 30 minutes.They're based on electronic health records back at the hospital that track how long it takes a patient to see a doctor.

"In our business, time is of the essence," Domingue said.

He said patients also get excellent care.

 "I think there is a perception that if we are fast, we are jeopardizing patients or going to cut corners, and that is absolutely not the case," Domingue said.
 
The hospitals also update wait times on a free iPhone application and on digital billboards scattered across the Metroplex.

 "We glanced at that [the digital billboard] and saw that it wasn't going to be a very long wait time, so we came in," Amanda Josselet said.

HCA hospitals see patients in order of severity of illness, so wait times do not apply to people with life-threatening conditions. Such patients should call 911.

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