Hospitals face many challenges trying to manage the flow of patients, especially in the ER. They have to triage patients, diagnose them, treat them, discharge them, and move on to the next patients waiting. Therefore, some hospitals have started taking online ER appointments to manage the flow of patients, as reported by MEDCITY News and Bloomberg.

The average wait in an ER has increased from 47 to 58 minutes from 2003 to 2009, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. To combat the long waits in ERs, 100 hospitals have started accepting ER online reservations, including hospitals run by Tenet Healthcare. By allowing online reservations and other services, including mobile apps, hospitals are trying to better manage the flow of patients while improving patient satisfaction.

Patient satisfactions is particularly important now, because that will be taken into account for hospital reimbursement bonuses under the Affordable Care Act. In 2013, around $850 million will be given out to hospitals by the government, based on various performance measures, such as patient satisfaction.

InQuicker LLC is one service provider that helps patients book doctors appointments, urgent care reservations or ER reservations. They offer reservations for about 140 hospitals. Tyler Kiley, the founder of InQuicker said “Doctors and nurses have embraced InQuicker because they can focus on the business of healing rather than apologizing for lengthy waits or a lack of communication.”

However, some people are not happy with this new system, arguing that it discriminates against lower-income patients who don’t have access to smartphones or computers. Reserving a time online may also put a patient ahead of another who has similar complaints and was waiting in the ER.

Yet, overall hospital seem to favor this new online reservation system. While technology in medicine, health IT, and biotech have greatly advanced, healthcare system operations have fallen behind. The new online reservation services seems like a step in the right direction, which can hopefully start to bring it up to par with the advances in other medical fields.

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