As emergency physicians, we have to be aware of our patient population. Here are some interesting facts you might want to consider when you start a shift each day. More than 85 percent of American adults own a cell phone, and more than 58 percent of adults over 65 own a cell phone. More than 17 percent of cell phone users have used their phones to look up health or medical information, and more than nine percent of these patients have apps on their cell phones to help them track or manage their health.
For better or worse, our patients are using applications that report waiting times in emergency departments. These apps basically give our nonemergent patients the ability to shop around for the ED with the shortest wait. The applications use a GPS locator to determine patients' locations, and link them to EDs that are broadcasting waiting times and directions. If you type “ER wait time” into the search bar of the App Store, a slew of apps pop up, all of them free, of course. Over the next year, expect an increase in these types of apps.
Some emergency physicians will fight their administrations on providing this information, and some will play along. My thought is if we are going to promote our wait times, then we should have input into what our patients see. We should create a better application that has some medical value to it. We cannot control what comes through our EDs, but we can educate our patients, and use technology to our advantage.
Dr. Castro is an emergency physician, the CEO of Deep Pocket Series (www.deeppocketseries.com), and the creator of several iPhone apps, including FastERTX, IV MEDS, Stroke Scale, A Shockable Ringtone, Drug Seeker, and 1st Follow Up.