After spiking a fever and vomiting for several hours, college student Ryan Owens texted his mom early one morning for help.
“I told her I needed to go to the hospital because I didn’t feel right,” said Owens, 22, who attends Tarrant County College Southeast Campus. Soon his mom called back and told him what time to arrive at the Methodist Mansfield Medical Center emergency room. Because she had booked him an appointment online, Owens was being treated for the stomach flu within five minutes of arriving at the hospital, he said, instead of having to sit with other sick people in the waiting room.
“I didn’t even know that was possible,” Owens said. “It was very convenient for me.”
Methodist Mansfield Medical Center is the first hospital in Tarrant County to offer the online check-in option quickER.org, which is also available at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. At the hospital website, patients can type in their symptoms and select the first available time to be seen in the emergency room.
The goal is for patients to meet with a healthcare provider within 15 minutes of arrival, said Dr. Ketan Trivedi, medical director of Methodist Mansfield’s Emergency Department.
“When it comes to cold and flu season, you are bound to have days that have high wait times,” Trivedi said, adding that sick people sometimes might have to wait two or three hours on busy days. “The goal for our hospital is to have minimal wait time.”
The service isn’t meant for people with potentially life-threatening health problems but is intended for less serious complaints, such as sprains, scrapes, broken bones and cold symptoms that could typically be checked out by a primary-care physician or an urgent-care clinic, Trivedi said. A nurse screens all online appointment requests and will notify a patient if he or she should call 911 or come to the emergency room immediately based on the description of symptoms, he said.
The online service bases appointment times on the emergency room’s current patient volumes, allowing people to wait from the comfort of home, hospital spokeswoman Angel Biasatti said.
“When people aren’t feeling good, they want to get relief as soon as possible,” Biasatti said. “By offering this, we are allowing them a better patient experience and patient outcome where they are controlling their time.”
Trivedi said he expects more hospital emergency departments to offer online appointment scheduling, which is already available in some urgent-care clinics, to improve patient satisfaction.
“Wait time is something more and more hospitals have become more alert to in recent times,” Trivedi said. “It seems to be one of the top complaints in any hospital. No matter how great a service you provide, if patients have to wait in the waiting room, some perceive that as negative.”
For information, visit www.QuickER.org.