Case Studies: No Examples of Posting Wait Times Increasing ER Patient Volume

Nashville-area hospitals post wait time for ER service. Reston, VA, hospital uses cellphone texting to announce emergency room waiting time.

Posting ER wait times: Probably a bad idea for a number of reasons.

Reason number one is that we have seen no case studies where posted wait times can be linked to profitable clinical intake. The key word there is “profitable.”

There has been a hospital marketing trend towards posting ER wait times. We all get it… it is a about enhancing customer service perception. But the facts are that patients will choose an ER based on proximity in 90% of all cases of emergency (the exception being going a little further to a trauma center) or if time isn’t a factor, based on perceived expertise.

A sound Emergency/Trauma Center protocol always includes a filter to triage the really emergent cases from the “I have a sore throat” cases. So wait times for an emergency are misleading or meaningless anyway.

Case studies are starting to show that those that advertise wait times have a tendency to get episodic store-front clinic business… I need my prescription filled, I have a sore throat, I have the flu or do I have to go to school today? Is that what you really want making your wait times longer?

Messages that have increased profitable ER business are usually around expertise and symptoms. For example:

  • Recognize the warning signs of stroke or heart attack
  • Get abdominal pain checked ASAP
  • Pediatric specialists on-site
  • Orthopedic and Sports Med specialists on-site

ER messages are one of the rare cases where we might recommend the use of billboards – but only close to the ER and if they also include directional info ( for example “turn here” or “next exit” or “ahead 2 blocks on left”)

Let the “I don’t wanna go to school today” go to the minute clinic at the Wal-Mart. You have important and more profitable work to do in your ER.



3 Responses to Case Studies: No Examples of Posting Wait Times Increasing ER Patient Volume

  1. Tommy Thompson says:

    Driving ER traffic, of course, is not the reason for posting ER wait times. The reason is to enhance the technology reputation of your hospital.

  2. Great information. Any research on promoting ER during the summer or any other programs for that matter? I thought it would be a good idea, but we go to sleep with marketing because supposedly everyone is on vacation and not paying attention to marketing.

    • Great question. Have you considered a social media program which can be executed consistently throughout the year to develop a long term relationship and capture people at the moment they are looking for information no matter what time of year?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: