Today, I write to y’all from the lovely city of Richmond, VA, a lovely colonial-era town which blends striking 18th-century row homes with dazzling modern palaces of light and tinted glass. Among those businesses with a shining presence in downtown Richmond are a handful of established hospitals, and they play to the modern city-dweller.
Several HCA hospitals, including those in in Richmond, have put the latest hospital marketing tool into place — a service which lets patients know how long the wait time will be if they visit the facility’s emergency department. This is happening elsewhere in the country, too, and my read is that it’s likely to pop up more often.
HCA hospitals provide the “door-to-provider” time, or the time from the patient’s arrival to the time he or she is seen by a doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. Cell phone users can use the system by texting “ER” to 23000. Other facilities have developed iPhone applications allowing patients to get a read on ED conditions.
This “check your wait time” thing sounds good to me, when I think like a patient at least. But I also see some serious downsides to this practice: 1) It encourages people to think of the ED as a primary care setting, where timeliness is key, 2) it could encourage inappropriate behavior.
Also, isn’t it possible that stressing brief wait times will expectations that emergency care can operate like a dry cleaner or a McDonald’s?
Bottom line: I like creative marketing as much as the next guy, but this doesn’t feel right. Maybe I’m just too cynical. What do you think?