ER wait times made public

By Yvette Yeon - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - No more wondering how long you'll have to wait in the emergency room. HCA Virginia Hospitals are using technology to help patients know in advance how long the wait is.

This new computer tracking system will take the last four hours of patient wait times, and average it out to calculate the current wait time in the ER - giving patients a heads up, before going to the hospital.

On a busy day, waiting rooms are packed with sick patients, and sometimes the wait is long. Henrico resident Marsha Seay says she once waited 3 hours in an ER.

"It's not a fun thing to do especially with all the other sick people there. I'm afraid I'll catch something that they've got," said Seay.

But with the use of electronic billboards and texts, people can now know in advance how long they may have to wait.

"It updates every 30 minutes so it's real time, it's not a goal it's what's happening at the time," said Dr. Tamera Barnes, Medical Director for Henrico's Doctors ER Department.

There are currently 5 billboards up and running right now, like the one on West Broad Street. Eventually they want a total of 12 around the metro area.

"Nobody likes to go to the emergency room and sit and wait. So I would definitely look forward to using that," Seay said.

If you're phone savvy, just text the letters "ER" to "23000" on your phone and you'll instantly get a return text asking for your zip code. Once you text that back, HCA Virginia Hospitals will text you 3 of their closest emergency rooms, their wait times, and a weblink. The point is you'll have a way to get the information.

"I don't do the texting so it'll probably be the billboards," said Seay.

"As soon as we are going in to see a patient the physician or the provider clicks on them on the computer and that feeds directly to our computer system which can populate those billboards," Dr. Barnes said.

The text and billboards will only show information for the six local HCA hospitals, including Chippenham, Johnston-Willis, John Randolph and the three doctor's hospitals. We checked in with Bon Secours hospital, they say, they already have a no wait policy for their emergency rooms.

Now HCA tells us this is designed for patients with minor medical conditions like sports injuries or dehydration. If you have something more serious, you should call 911.

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