Hospitals Trying to Improve ER Delays

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Some emergency rooms are using text messages and flashing billboards to advertise how long patients will have to wait to see a doctor.

Adding the new technology is a marketing move aimed at non-emergency patients.

"If you're in a car accident, you're not going to flip open your iPhone and see what the wait times are," cautioned Dr. Sandra Schneider, president-elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Emergency rooms are getting busier and forcing them to try innovative tactics to cut delays is a growing trend.

In 2012, hospitals will begin reporting to Medicare on how fast their ERs move certain patients through their facility.

"The longer people stay in the emergency department, the more likely they're going to have complications, deaths. If they're elderly, they're more likely to end up in a nursing home," said Dr. Nick Jouriles, emergency medicine chief at Akron General Hospital in Ohio. Jouiles' medical center is among the hospitals that post estimated wait times in the ER.

According to preliminary data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ER visits reached a new high of 123 million in 2008, which is more than the 117 million from 2007.

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