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Online ER Booking: Is There A Real Emergency?

This is so wrong.

You can’t make this stuff up.

It seems an emergency department in Memphis, Tennessee is now taking online reservations for their services. Yes, you heard that right, you can now hop online and select the time you would like to be seen for your “emergency”. Just pay $15.00 and you can give your chief complaint, your medical history and your list of medications ahead of time, saving you time and trouble when you pop in with your pesky problem!

What if the problem is serious?

The computer won’t let you register and flashes a “Call 911″ sign at you.

But wait! There’s more!

If you are not seen within 15 minutes of your scheduled time, you money is cheerfully refunded!

I’m not kidding.


If you can make an appointment for an ER visit, you are not having an emergency!

Repeat it with me: the use of emergency departments for non-urgent problems is an inefficient, expensive practice.

If you are making an appointment for an “ER visit”, what you are doing is making an appointment for a clinic masquerading as an ER. And if the “ER” actually a fast track that is staffed and run separately from the ER (aka an “urgent care” or a “clinic”) then, don’t advertise it as an emergency service.

The very nature of emergency care means never knowing what will come through the doors or when it will show up. The patient population is fluid, the acuity level varies widely with no way to predict work flow. You can make appointments and schedule to your heart’s content but all the online reservation systems in the world cannot guarantee that an emergency department will be able to see a patient in a set time frame.

And the “money back” guarantee?



How can we expect the public to have realistic expectations of health care, specifically emergency care, when it gets treated like your local nail salon? Make an appointment and get your money back if the totally unreliable, unforeseeable and often chaotic world of the ER can’t meet its promises.

It’s bad enough that patients have unrealistic expectations when they walk through the door. They expect to be seen instantly. They don’t expect to wait for labs. They want meds given to them and not to have to go to the pharmacy. And now, in a community in Texas, they can make an appointment to be seen in an emergency department.

I wonder if the nurses and doctors on the front lines had any input into that.

I don’t have much information, but it just reeks of corporate input.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I just don’t get it.

*This blog post was originally published at Emergiblog*

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One Response to “Online ER Booking: Is There A Real Emergency?”

  1. WarmSocks says:

    True, one doesn’t schedule emergencies. HOWEVER, when it appears my kid’s broken his arm at 9pm, I can give him some tylenol and start driving him to the hospital an hour away. While I’m making the trip, my spouse can phone the hospital to make “an appointment” so we don’t end up sitting there another couple hours before the kid is seen.

    Flashing “call 911” for life-threatening emergencies is a good idea. Maybe the system could also flash “not an emergency – call your primary doctor for an appointment” for other issues.

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