Should hospital ERs take reservations?

Taking a cue from the restaurant industry, hospitals are letting patients book online reservations for their emergency rooms, Bloomberg reported. The concierge service boosts hospitals' bottom line by enhancing patient satisfaction and attracting insured patients.

For instance, Texas-based Tenet Healthcare offers online ER bookings at 42 hospitals, in which patients describe their ailments when scheduling an appointment.

But some industry experts want online reservations kept of the ER, even though the practice complies with U.S. law.

With online reservations, patients who reserve their spot online may get seen before patients with similar complaints who have been sitting in the waiting room, Robert Bitterman, president and CEO of Harbor Springs, Michigan-based Health Law Consulting Group, told Bloomberg.

The practice discriminates against lower-income patients who may not have access to smartphones or computers, Bitterman noted.

Critics also point out that by scheduling an emergency room appointment, it's not an emergency.

Despite such protests, more than 100 hospitals across the country provide ER online reservations, usually at no cost to patients.

In addition to online appointment scheduling, hospitals have been using other technology to improve emergency room services by triaging emergency calls and sending text messages to inform patients of their ER wait times.

To learn more:
- here's the Bloomberg article