Why doesn't every doctor's office have this service?
Imagine you've just accidentally sliced your hand instead of your morning bagel. How long will you have to wait in the emergency department?
If you're in the vicinity of Edward Hospital in Naperville, a text, click or old-fashioned phone call can tell you how quickly doctors will treat your bleeding wound.
The service could be especially handy for those who live between Edward's two ER locations, in Naperville and Plainfield, said Dr. Tom Scaletta, medical director of the Edward's Naperville ER department.
Of course, patients are triaged on arrival based on the severity of their illness. And in emergencies, patients should call 911. But Edward has "improved door to doctor wait time to below 25 minutes," Scaletta said. Moreover, letting people know wait times also increases transparency, he added.
"Not every day is perfect. Some days are incredibly busy and we can't just snap our fingers and have the whole staff in," he said.
Edward Hospital is among the first hospitals in the country to make ER wait times available via text message, online and by phone. The award-winning ER department is also a very busy place; last year it treated nearly 75,400 patients, the most outside Chicago and Cook County, according to the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council.
Wait times are calculated by averaging the time from when a patient arrives and checks in to the time they are placed in a room where treatment begins, commonly referred to as the "door to treatment area" time. Updates are sent every 15 minutes.
So far, about 200 people a week have used the service, but hospital staff are hoping that given the prevalence of text messaging, it will soon catch on.
"What makes us happy is when people are in and out faster than the wait for a regular (doctor's) appointment," said Scaletta.
Which raises the question: Why aren't all doctors using this service?
To use Edward's service,
• Text: "ERwait" to 41411
• Click: www.edward.org (the blue ER wait time banner is displayed in the upper right corner of the home page)