Local hospitals not taking ER reservations

PARKERSBURG – While some hospitals across the U.S. have started using reservation systems in their emergency departments, local hospitals said they are not doing so at this time.

According to Bloomberg News, more than 100 hospitals are using the ER reservation systems, which allow patients to see wait times for their local emergency rooms online or reserve a place in line at the emergency room from their homes.

More than a dozen Chicago-area hospitals have implemented similar systems in their emergency rooms, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune.

The idea is to cut down on the unpredictable nature of wait times in emergency rooms.

Jeniffer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations for Memorial Health System in Marietta, said while the emergency departments at Marietta Memorial and Selby General do not have a reservation system, they along with Physician’s Care Express do post the wait times at the facilities.

“We are watching what other hospitals are doing in terms of registering for a place in advance,” she said. “We’ll evaluate its effectiveness and if it is something we would consider implementing here, but it isn’t on our radar right now.”

Offenberger said for convenience they began publishing the waiting times about six months ago. Wait times are 40 minutes or less, but due to the unpredictable nature of the emergency department, the wait time could be longer.

“There are times that we get traumas and other life-threatening situations that may cause those with less serious issues to wait,” she said. “We’re proud of our wait times right now, and because they are lower than those in our region, there isn’t as much of a demand to register a place in line.”

For patients who were seen but not admitted, Offenberger said, they have Door to Diagnostic, an evaluation by a qualified professional where the wait time was 19 minutes.

“The average time (for patients not admitted) between arrival to the emergency department and departure time overall was three hours and 11 minutes,” she said. “That includes the time it took for arrival, diagnosis, testing and processing through departure.

“Our goal is to provide the best experience possible.”

Susan Abdella, director of emergency services at Camden Clark Medical Center, said the center is not considering a similar system.

“We are not doing any of those,” she said. “Posting time is difficult because hospitals base visits on acuity or the seriousness of the case.”

Camden Clark does have fast tracks for minor situations and express care centers.

“Patients with less need are seen in the fast track. At some hospitals they take reservations for something like having stitches removed during the lunch hour,” she said. “A lot of times a fee is associated with it. Can sign up but have to pay for reservation and if you don’t show they take the money.”

However, Abdella said reservations are not being taken at this time.

“We’re not saying never, but not at this time,” she said.

Abdella said since more severe or trauma cases can come at any time, reservations for emergency room visits can be delayed.

“We’ll have unhappy customers if we are not making appointments,” she said.