ER Wait Times at Your Fingertips

PANAMA CITY, Fla., April 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The first wave of Spring Breakers has hit the sugar white sands of Panama City Beach, Florida.  While most don't plan on a trip to the emergency department while they're on vacation, some end up there.  And when they need emergency care, Gulf Coast Medical Center has made it easy for vacationers to find out how long they may have to wait for treatment before they leave for the hospital.

By texting ER to 23000, users will receive a text message displaying the hospital's average ER wait time and directions to the facility.

Gulf Coast Medical Center ER physician Dr. Debra Williams says, "Knowing how long you may have to wait for care before you even go to the emergency department is valuable.  The text messaging option gives the patient information they need to help them make a very important decision.  If it's a true medical emergency, the best option is still to call 9-1-1 and tell the paramedics to take them to the closest hospital and Gulf Coast Medical Center is the closest hospital from Panama City Beach."

After texting 23000 and typing ER in the body of the text, users are asked to enter their zip code in the Bay County, Florida area, which is followed by a text message with the hospital's average ER wait time.  Panama City Beach zip codes are 32401, 32407, 32408, 32413 and 32417.

The technology is helping patients and the hospital address one of the most common complaints about emergency departments - long wait times.  "Patients with medical emergencies, such as cardiac, stroke and trauma, are always seen immediately," explained Dr. Williams.  "It's the patient with non-emergent conditions who is benefiting from being able to know our average ER wait time before they come to the hospital."

Panama City Beach remains one of the country's favorite vacation destinations.  More than six million people visit its beaches throughout the year.  More are expected this year due to Southwest Airlines' arrival at the new airport.

Gulf Coast Medical Center Emergency Department Director Sheila Bradt says, "Our guests come here not expecting to need medical care, but many do.  By being able to check our ER wait times via text messaging or on our website, they have a free resource that's easy to access and helps them quickly determine what steps they should take for receiving care."

Times posted via text messaging or on the hospital's website represent the average time it takes a patient to see a medical professional after they are registered.  Wait times are updated twice an hour and represent a four hour average.  Times are approximate and provided for informational purposes only. 

SOURCE Gulf Coast Medical Center Panama City, Florida