Unnecessary ER visitsUnnecessary ER visits are a costly problem your hospital likely doesn’t have a permanent solution for.  What about those minor strains, fractures, and other acute illnesses emergency rooms have been treating for years?  Consider these eyebrow-raising stats:

  • Recent studies suggest minor illnesses could save hospitals over 4 billion dollars annually if treated at urgent care centers.
  • 71 percent out of 6.5 million ER visits analyzed by Truven Health were found to be avoidable.
  • BlueCross BlueShield found that for patients in the state of New York, 90 percent of all ER visits were likely unnecessary.

Educating patients can be challenge, though.  Are patients even aware of cheaper alternatives?  One solution hospitals are turning to is mobile apps.  Not just general hospital apps, but mobile apps designed to make non-life threatening emergencies easier.  For find out how these apps are being built, check out the eBook: 12 Quick Apps to Solve Real Problems Facing Hospitals.

Using Apps to Help Patients Find ER Alternatives

Many healthcare systems have multiple primary care and urgent care centers, but how will patients know where they are located in times of need? Here are three ways apps are coming to the rescue:

  1. Displaying urgent care wait times. The emergency room is the first choice for many patients, with an average wait time estimated to be around 24 minutes.  As a result, a few select healthcare systems are promoting their urgent care centers using mobile apps with live streaming wait times as a cheaper and quicker alternative.
  2. Using Geolocation. For healthcare systems with multiple facilities, geofencing technology is just one way to speed up the decision making process by mapping out the closest option for patients.  For example, when a user enters a defined geographic area, a push notification will be triggered alerting the user when they are in range of your facility.
  3. Contact information at your fingertips.  Access to contact information during emergencies is critical, and having this information easily accessible is simple using tap-to-call features or setting up a directory.

One objective of the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is to divert patients away from ERs to more affordable primary care and urgent care centers, but according to insurance giant BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, that isn’t happening as fast as you might expect.  Emergency room visits are continuing to negatively affect costs for now – leaving hospitals and providers scrambling to address this problem in a practical way.

How Can You Respond?

What urgent care center is in my network? Will my insurance cover it?  In the future, it will be interesting to see how mobile applications evolve in order to meet a variety of patient requests – but progress is being made.

For Tanner Health System, an app they created in a few short weeks, Tanner Urgent Care, proved to be the solution they were seeking for reducing unnecessary ER visits.  Patients can instantly view urgent care centers in the Tanner Health network and even view wait times straight from their iOS or Android smartphone.

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