Ohio Hospitals Advertise ER Wait Times On Billboards, Internet

Akron General Health System, a hospital system in Ohio, "recently began advertising up-to-the-minute wait times for its emergency rooms on billboards throughout town," the Akron Beacon Journal reports. "Six digital billboards in Akron are automatically updated every 20 minutes to show current average wait times to see a doctor at the main ER in downtown Akron and in satellite ERs in the Montrose area and Stow. The average times are computer generated, based on current patient information from the health system's electronic medical records, marketing director Mary Brackle said." The times are also listed on the hospital's Web site.  

The campaign may be part of a growing trend of emergency room advertising. "More hospitals nationwide are starting to advertise their ER wait times through billboards, Web sites, text messages or social media sites, such as Twitter. Some emergency medicine doctors, however, see this as a dangerous trend." They worry that patients with serious problems might seek care at a facility away mistakenly thinking they will get treatment faster "when, in fact, ER personnel make sure those with the most critical problems are seen immediately, said Dr. David C. Seaberg, a member of the board of directors of the American College of Emergency Physicians" (Powell, 2/4).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.