Beaufort News

Hospital emergency rooms taking online reservations

Nurse Kevin Ashdown of Hilton Head Hospital’s emergency department looks over registration numbers Friday for the new InQuickER system, which lets patients go online to reserve a spot at the emergency room.
Nurse Kevin Ashdown of Hilton Head Hospital’s emergency department looks over registration numbers Friday for the new InQuickER system, which lets patients go online to reserve a spot at the emergency room. Sarah Welliver/The Island Packet

No more spending hours in a stuffy, overcrowded ER waiting room.

Hilton Head Hospital and Coastal Carolina Hospital are offering an online service that allows patients to reserve a time at the emergency room while waiting at home.

By paying $9.99 and completing an online form through InQuickER, patients can reserve a spot and arrive at the projected treatment time.

A patient will be seen by a health professional in the emergency room within 15 minutes, or InQuickER will refund the fee or give an alternate time, according to a hospital news release.

Users, though, are still subject to the same triage and queuing processes as other ER visitors and do not receive preferential treatment.

Increased demand and decreased capacity are creating traffic jams in ER waiting rooms across the country, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians. As a result, hospitals are using programs such as InQuickER to streamline admissions.

"We know people want more convenience and communication in the ER experience," said Hilton Head Hospital spokeswoman Kelly Presnell. "In addition, it allows our emergency department staff to be prepared and know in advance what to expect with the patient and their condition."

Dr. Paul Zorch, ER medical director at Coastal Carolina, said reducing time patients spend in the ER also reduces the risk of infections spreading in the waiting room.

Presnell said she does not believe Hilton Head Hospital will have a problem with people who do not need immediate care booking time at the emergency room.

"We provide this information to our patients so they can make an informed decision on where to seek appropriate care," Presnell said. "This is a way to improve our processes and make our services easier to access by providing patients with the convenience they want."

The service is designed for patients with minor medical conditions. Patients with potentially life-threatening health problems should call 911, she said.

Patients with medical emergencies, such as heart attack, stroke or traumatic injuries, are always seen immediately, Presnell said.

InQuickER prevents those with potentially life-threatening medical conditions, such as chest pain, from using the service. They are told to go directly to the emergency room, she said.

Officials at the Nashville-based company say that since the system was launched in 2006, 95 percent of reservations have been kept. The system is used by 56 hospitals and urgent care centers in 13 states.

As of Thursday, 18 people had made reservations at Hilton Head Hospital and one at Coastal Carolina using the online service, which has been available for less than a month. All were seen by health professional within 15 minutes, according to hospital officials.

Coastal Carolina Hospital also recently introduced a way for patients to find out emergency room wait times from home at www.coastalhospital.com. The wait times on the site reflect a rolling two-hour average and are updated every five minutes, said Coastal Carolina spokeswoman Carolyn Grant.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead.

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