Getting The 4-1-1 On Waiting Times At The Emergency RoomThe Associated Press: Hospitals are increasingly using messaging systems, such as online notices, text messages or flashing billboards, to let people know how long the wait is at local emergency rooms. "It's a marketing move aimed at less urgent patients, not the true emergencies that automatically go to the front of the line anyway. ... Despite that fledgling trend, ERs are getting busier, forcing them to try innovative tactics to cut delays - such as stationing doctors at the front door to get a jump-start on certain patients." According to federal data, visits to emergency rooms "hit a new high of more than 123 million in 2008, up from 117 million a year earlier." The efforts come as hospitals gear up for a new Medicare standard: in 2012 they must report to federal officials "how fast their ERs move certain patients through, a first step at increasing quality of care across the board" (Neergaard, 8/23).
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