Emergency Rooms Adopt Online Reservation System

Some emergency rooms are using online reservations to cut overcrowding.

ByABC News
November 12, 2010, 7:53 AM

Nov. 12, 2010— -- Need a tetanus shot? Take a number. But feel free to wait in the comfort of your own home.

A new online service is aiming to take the "wait" out of emergency room visits -- or at least change where it's done.

Hospitals that partner with InQuickER enable patients -- those with truly non-emergent conditions, at least -- to make reservations for ER visits online, much the way they would book a table at a restaurant through OpenTable.com.

Read this story on www.medpagetoday.com.

"Patients are just choosing where they wait," said Dr. Kathleen Clem, chair of emergency medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, which recently implemented the technology. "They're waiting at home rather than our waiting room."

She added that they're "not getting in line in front of someone else."

At most hospitals, the service costs $24.99, and patients can usually make an appointment for an hour and a half or two hours down the road -- the same amount of time they might have spent had they just shown up at an ER.

Chris Song, marketing director for InQuickER, says the system is "designed for those with non-life-threatening conditions." That could be a urinary tract infection if it's a weekend and the primary care physician's office is closed, or a sprain that is not debilitating but doesn't need immediate treatment.

Hospitals license the company's software, and about 15 around the country currently participate, including some centers in Florida, California, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

Since InQuickER began offering the service in 2006, Song says company data show a 95 percent success rate with keeping appointments.

St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, has had about 700 customers make reservations since May, and so far they've only made "a few" reimbursements of that booking fee, according to Sandra Payne, vice president of marketing for St. Anthony.