LAKEWOOD - It's a visual that anyone who has watched TV recently would recognize: sirens blaring, ambulance wheels screeching to a stop, paramedics speeding an occupied gurney toward the emergency room doors. The scene has played out hundreds of times on television screens.Yet for most patients, their experience in the emergency department is decidedly different. Because emergency rooms see patients with a wide variety of conditions, they must use a process called triage that ensures patients with the most serious or life-threatening conditions are taken first for evaluation and treatment. For instance, people who have shortness of breath, chest pain or stroke symptoms may be seen before other patients. Most emergency departments aim to treat patients as quickly as possible, but the reality is that during busier hours, there may be a longer wait to see a doctor if the patient's condition is not life-threatening. Lakewood Regional Medical Center is one of a growing number of hospitals looking to change that by subscribing to an online reservation system. For a fee, patients can make an emergency room reservation online, just as they would book a table at a restaurant. Called InQuickER, the service enables patients with non-emergent conditions to avoid lengthy waits in the ER. Patients can usually make an appointment for 1-1/2 hours in advance - the same amount of time they might have spent had they just shown up at an emergency room. They system guarantees patients will be seen within 15 minutes of their scheduled appointment. "With so many ER closures in our area, the ones who remain open are becoming overcrowded resulting in longer wait times," said Dr. Bruce Jetton, an emergency room physician at Lakewood Regional. "And the economy is also contributing to crowded ERs; we are seeing a higher number of patients without insurance who use the ER as [their] means of medical service." Since December, Lakewood Regional has posted actual emergency room wait times on its website. The times are updated every five minutes and give patients "a two-hour rolling average on the time it takes after a patient's arrival to be escorted into a treatment room," hospital administrators said. Lakewood Regional began using the InQuickER reservation system this month. The cost to make a reservation is $14.99. To make a reservation, or for more information, visit www.LakewoodER.com. Other nearby hospitals that also use the online reservation system include Los Alamitos Medical Center and Fountain Valley Regional Medical Center.
********** Published: February 03, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 42