Metro Health ER wait times available via text

March 5, 2011
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Hundreds of people have used Metro Health Hospital’s new texting service to check on emergency room waiting times since the service was introduced recently.

The new service allows people to send an SMS text on their cell phones to the short code 40491 and receive current ER wait time as well as the average wait time for the previous 24 hours.

Helen Berghoef, director of emergency services, said the new service is part of an effort to concentrate on patient satisfaction as the emergency department has become busier since the hospital’s 2007 move to Wyoming.

“Some of the initiatives that we’ve been focusing on at Metro revolve around keeping patients informed — particularly delays,” Berghoef said. “Part of that is moving that to the upfront process where patients know when they come in to the emergency department how long they are going to wait. We know that decreases anxiety.”

Setting expectations for patients helps relieve anxiety that arises out of waiting and not knowing why, Berghoef said. For example, emergency department staff members take turns checking on patients to ensure they are aware of their status and have what they need.

She said the text service also leverages Metro Health’s investment in the Epic computer system, which tracks patients through the emergency department and can automatically report on times from check-in to doctor.

“From being first to launch an integrated electronic medical record to having in-room patient education options, we strive to identify and implement leading-edge technology,” Berghoef said.

The ER wait time text application was manufactured by local technology developer Springthrough, Metro Health spokeswoman Ellen Bristol said.

In the first five days of the service, 334 people used it, she said.

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