Every three minutes, Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona tells patients how long they can expect to wait to see a doctor or other health professional at one of its four emergency departments. The times are automatically posted on electronic billboard ads and the hospital system’s website.
Posting ED wait times on billboards, websites, Twitter accounts and mobile apps may seem like a way to better serve patients. Yet it could backfire, some physicians say.
Hospital systems from Oregon to Arizona to Virginia see it as an opportunity to boost revenue and smooth patient demand over the course of the day and week, as well as among different EDs they operate. The argument is also made that greater transparency about wait times could encourage hospital administrators to devote more resources to reducing patient boarding and diversion.
But the growing trend could lead to misuse. Patients could self-triage in a dangerous way. There could be inappropriate use of the emergency department. There also might be a misplaced emphasis on door-to-doctor times versus more meaningful measures, such as how long it takes for an ED patient to be admitted or discharged once their care is completed.
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