Here’s the scenario – your 5 year old appears to be having problems breathing, so you call the pediatrician & he/she advises you to go to the ER; do you a) Text the hospital to get their ER wait times, b) Don’t worry about it, he’s probably faking, or c) Get in the car & haul tail to the nearest ER?
Survey says: c – you go to the nearest hospital ER, who cares about the wait time!
There’s been an interesting trend lately of hospitals offering text messages, live billboards, and other means to publicize their ER wait times. From a real-world standpoint, no one in their right mind would check on wait times before going to the ER. From a marketing standpoint, it’s a smart move – as long as it is followed-up with action at the ER itself.
What I mean by that statement, is that “ER wait time” is one thing, if you quickly move out of the waiting room to a triage area (which equals a short wait time) and still have to wait hours to be treated, that is quite another. Few things can negatively affect a company’s reputation faster than aggressively publicizing one thing and delivering nothing close. In this case, that is the question.
This trend was started largely by HCA hospitals a few years ago because they wanted to brag about their success in lowering ER wait times (rightfully so). But before they went around bragging about it, they did something about it – they brought in management/process consultants who streamlined their ER wait times far below the national average of about an hour, to less than half of that.
As a life-long veteran of the health care system, and as I’m sure many of you would agree, it’s a highly inefficient system that could use this kind of disruptive thinking. While the posting of ER wait times has little to do with your decision of where to go when you need very urgent care (hopefully at least, you’ll want to go to the closest place, fast!), it does plant a subtle seed. A seed that, when fed properly from many marketing methods (eg. text, billboard, web, etc.), can spread positive word-of-mouth vibes that a fast ER equals a good hospital!