ER Wait Times Go Online: St. Cloud Regional Gets the Word Out
posted on January 31, 2011 at 7:02 pm
For so many, it is the front door to your hospital. It may be the department most covered on your local news. Unfortunately, it can also be a key source of patient complaints – especially when it comes to waiting to see a medical professional.
For the last year, more than ever before Health Management hospitals have worked hard to make sure patients have an easier, faster and higher-quality experience in our ERs . While encompassing several initiatives with our ER Extra programs we are making great strides.
One of our areas of focus is adding ER wait times to all of our hospital websites. Most Health Management hospital websites are already on board and the remainder will be up soon!
“The key benefit of adding ER wait times online is that patients can gain some sort of comfort by knowing an approximate timeline – especially in an emergency,” says Christy Mize, marketing and communications at St. Cloud Regional Medical Center, which implemented the wait times last July.
“We find it can really make a difference when patients are trying to decide to come to us or go to a competitor down the street. Further, it’s really one more way for us to connect with our community – which is so important since we’re a tight-knit place.”
Christy and the team at St. Cloud Regional have taken several action steps to tell their community about the online ER wait times. Looking for ideas? Here is what they are doing:
- Mobile site: When St. Cloud Regional web visitors use their smart phones to access the hospital’s website, they are immediately greeted with the hospital’s ER wait time and directions to the hospital. This is an initiative that is being rolled out across Health Management hospitals.
- iPhone app: St. Cloud Regional is also participating with other Health Management hospitals in rolling out the new ER Extra iPhone app. Designed to make access to wait times even easier, St. Cloud Regional will begin promoting this initiative internally and externally in early February.
- Sharing the news with physicians: St. Cloud Regional Associates know how important their relationships are with their physicians, and take every opportunity to educate the physicians on their efforts to make the ER a fast, easy and great experience for patients.
- Business-sized cards with quick info on the initiative: When St. Cloud Regional hosts an event or visits with local community members, this card gives them a conversation starter on why the wait times are so helpful.
- Existing hospital events are a vehicle to educate: For any event already held at the hospital, St. Cloud Regional makes sure to include a “commercial break” telling patients about their ER wait times being online.
- Traditional advertising: St. Cloud Regional is taking advantage of the first round of advertising we shared with you to promote ER wait times, which includes billboards, print and online ads and public relations efforts.
Amidst all of these great efforts, St. Cloud Regional has naturally hit barriers in advertising their wait times so publicly. Christy reports that some patients simply don’t understand why, if the wait time says a certain amount of time, they don’t necessarily see a physician in that timeframe. It’s a common issue.
“One-on-one interaction is the best way to deal with that situation,” says Christy.
“We know that our wait times are calculated in approximate times to see a medical professional and start a triage, but our patients need that education. So, in cases where our patients question the policy, our ER director speaks personally with them.”
Of course, ER Extra is about more than just wait times online. Striving to continually provide an excellent experience in our ERs, St. Cloud Regional Associates and community members have all pitched in to the cause. For example, when St. Cloud Regional kicked off its ER wait time campaign, they also created a break room within the ER for EMS workers when they are at the hospital. In addition, the hospital’s newly-created Women’s Advisory Group collected toys for pediatric patients to receive when they came to the ER during the holiday season. ER physicians and Associates commented that it really made a difference for patients and their families.
Our ERs are so important to us – and most importantly to our patients. Thanks for all the efforts you make to enhance every patient experience.