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Hospital Tracks ER Wait Times on Billboards

In an effort to be more predictable, one Terre Haute hospital is taking a stopwatch to the emergency room waiting game.

Terre Haute Regional Hospital Website

Photo: www.regionalhospital.com

Terre Haute Regional Hospital's website, along with billboards in town, now tracks the average wait time for a patient arriving at the hospital's emergency room.

In medicine, saving time can save both lives and money. In an effort to be more predictable, one Terre Haute hospital is taking a stopwatch to the emergency room waiting game.

A common complaint in hospitals is that patients don’t know when they’ll be seen by a doctor, even when visiting the emergency room with a pressing concern.  But Terre Haute Regional Hospital is trying to give patients an idea how long it’ll be before the doctor is in.  The hospital has inked an agreement with a local advertising company to run two electronic billboards which advertise the average wait time in the hospital’s ER.  CEO Brian Bauer said it’s a competitive measure, but one he hopes will improve health care community-wide.

“As with any business in any industry in the world, people are going to compete over customers,” Bauer said.  “And patients are our customers.  Patients have a choice when making health care decisions.  I’m a firm believe that having multiple hospitals in a community is a blessing for the community, because it really raises the level of care that patients receive, because we’re always keeping each other on our toes.”

Bauer said the decision to post the billboards came after patients began commenting they were seen faster at Terre Haute Regional than at other facilities.  But he said no other hospitals were contacted to determine average wait times in other emergency rooms.

“A lot of evidence is anecdotal when we have patients arrive at our ER and say they’ve had to wait longer periods of time at other places.”

The billboards, which are posted along U-S 41 and along Third St, update every 40 minutes with current figures.  The times can also be accessed via text message.  The hospital has instituted a pledge which tries to keep the pre-doctor delay less than 30 minutes.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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