Wednesday, February 2, 2011
“Emergency, Emergency! Everyone to get from street!”
In the 1966 comedy movie, “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming, a non-hostile Soviet submarine runs aground on a sandbar near an island off Cape Anne, Mass. when the captain wants to take a closer look at America. The captain sends a nine-man landing party, headed by second-in-command Lieutenant Yuri Rozanov (Alan Arkin in his first movie role) to find a motor launch to help free the sub from the sand. The Russians try to pretend they are Norwegians, hilarity ensues and my favorite line is when a panicked Arkin, wanting to get away from the town’s people, cries out in a thick Russian accent, “Emergency, Emergency! Everyone to get from street!” This quote contains my favorite use of the word emergency. This, of course, ties in to today’s story which is about emergency rooms or why would I have told the tale!
An emergency is defined as “a sudden unforeseen crisis that requires immediate action.” If we parse that sentence there are three important components (1) happens fast, (2) did not know it was coming and (3) immediate action is needed. So how does one make an APPOINTMENT for an emergency room visit? At certain hospitals and urgent care centers in eight states (Ingalls Family Care Centers in Illinois), people can do that now by paying 14.99 to $24.99 to set up an on-line appointment. If the person is not seen within 15 minutes of the appointment time, they get their money back.
The emergency room appointment system was developed by Nashville, TN. based InQuickER. The company is described as “an online pre-registration and check-in service that provides more convenience, control, and communication to emergency room and urgent care patients. We at InQuickER are committed to making patient satisfaction a priority in the ER and urgent care experience by offering our users the convenience of choosing when they’ll be seen by a healthcare professional, more control over where they wait and how long they wait, and an open line of communication to ensure our users' satisfaction with the InQuickER service.”
But don’t hospitals have a triage service that decides what patient medically needs to be seen on a priority basis? InQuickER answers that question—“All emergency departments use a triage system. As a result, individuals with non-life threatening conditions may experience significant wait times, while those with more urgent conditions receive priority treatment. InQuickER works with existing triage systems to provide individuals with non-life threatening conditions the ability to choose when they’ll be seen by a healthcare professional while waiting in the comfort of their own homes, rather than in the waiting room.”
Chris Song, a company spokesman told the Los Angeles Times, “InQuickER users are not skipping the line in front of everyone else. They're simply waiting somewhere other than the waiting room." That is BS! Of course, they are skipping the line because the people who are already sitting the emergency room will be by-passed for the appointment-paying customer!
The LA Times related that Lakewood Regional Hospital pays $3,000/month for the reservation program and hope to recoup the expenditure at $14.99/patient. Last Friday they only had one reservation because nobody knows about the service yet. At that price, it will take 200 patients a month to break even, but with only one appointment available her hour, one has to schedule in advance when they will be having an emergency!
Being the elitist snob I am, I am all for paying to get better service than others. But since I don’t know when I will be having an emergency, it will be difficult to predict my need for the service.
To get faster access to a doctor in a crowded emergency room, I think it would be easier to have a Russian running through the triage room shouting that "everyone to get from hospital" would be more expedient than trying to make an appointment on-line. Plus I would save the $14.99.