CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some American hospitals are starting to use reservation systems in their emergency departments, but none of those hospitals are in West Virginia, an official said this week.
"Based on some initial feedback from hospitals, we've not heard of hospitals in West Virginia looking into the possibility of initiating a check-in system," Tony Gregory, vice president of legislative affairs for the West Virginia Hospital Association. "[It seems to be] a trend in more urban markets as a way of dealing with inappropriate use or overutilization of emergency rooms."
According to Bloomberg News, more than 100 hospitals are using the ER reservation systems, which allow patients to see wait times for their local emergency rooms online or even reserve a place in line at the emergency room from their homes.
More than a dozen Chicago-area hospitals have implemented similar systems in their emergency rooms, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune.
The idea is to cut down on the unpredictable nature of wait times in emergency rooms.
But Gregory said using reservations might have a downside, too.
"I've heard some critics say if someone is able to make an appointment, it's not an emergency," Gregory said. "It may encourage the misuse of emergency rooms. That's something to be concerned [about]."
Having appointment times may also encourage the incorrect assumption that emergency rooms are simply clinics, Gregory said.
With the chaotic nature of emergency rooms, it's difficult to ensure that a patient will be seen at a given time, Gregory said.
"There's no way to guarantee appointment time," he said. "If a hospital gets a [more critical] emergency patient, the patient with appointment would wait until the situation is passed, which could be different than the appointment." That could lead to even more dissatisfied patients, he said.