With a shortage of primary care access and increasing wait times for non-life threatening ailments in the emergency room, Dignity Health has launched an initiative to alleviate the bottleneck. Launched at Dignity’s Northridge Hospital Medical Center last year, patients visiting the ED can opt to make a reservation online and wait from home until their assigned appointment time.
While this initiative provides a clear value to patients – avoiding crowded waiting rooms, as well as the ability to relax in the comfort of one’s own home until the opportunity to meet with a physician – there is also a distinct value to the hospital. As health systems compete for patients and aim to enhance customer satisfaction, the initiative to reduce emergency room wait times is a vital strategy. Furthermore, providing patients with the option to wait from home could also enable customers to evaluate the true degree of their emergency, and will hopefully encourage more people to make appointments with their doctor when an emergency room visit isn’t truly needed.
Some supporters see online ED reservations as a progressive move; however, others argue that it does not address the core issue of rising healthcare costs. Dr. Del Morris, president of the California Academy of Family Physicians, asserts that “patients need to be treated at the right place at the right time,” and enabling consumers to make online emergency room appointments in lieu of scheduling with their doctors is not helping the industry to drive down healthcare costs.
In the short term, online emergency room reservations are enabling hospital staff to better anticipate their visitors, and patients who can afford the time to wait will be able to do so in greater comfort and privacy.
Avoid The Rush! Some ERs Are Taking Appointments by Anna Gorman