Checking in with the Tufts Medical Center ER Online Tool

emergency roomAbout 18 months ago, on a gorgeous late summer evening that happened to be our ninth wedding anniversary, my husband was riding a bicycle across Boston’s Mass Ave Bridge, when a van swerved right and knocked him off the bike.

I get chills writing the sentence—mostly because of what could have happened. He could have been far away from top-notch medical care, he could have died or had serious injuries. Fortunately, none of that occurred: someone called 911, other cyclists stopped to check on him, and the worst damage was to the bike; it was destroyed.

Once I learned he was en route to Tufts Medical Center, a hospital within walking distance of my office, I did the only thing I could do: I ran several blocks to the emergency room (in heels!), panicked.

I didn’t have to panic; his injuries were minor (a cut over his right eye that now looks a bit rakish, like he defended my honor in a bar fight). But when I stepped up to that emergency room (ER) intake desk to fill in the details of his accident, I didn’t know that yet (though I had hunch since he was texting me from the side of his mangled bike). A few hours later, after a couple of stitches in his forehead and several checks to make sure he didn’t have a head injury, we were off to our many times-delayed dinner reservation. A memorable anniversary indeed!

If my husband needed non-life-threatening emergency care today, instead of rushing to the hospital and waiting an unknown period of time to be seen by medical personnel, I could do things a little differently. I could use the Tufts Medical Center Department of Emergency Medicine’s new online tool, created by InQuickER, to put my husband in the queue for care. After answering a series of questions about his illness and our contact information, the tool would generate an estimate for when he would be seen at the ER. We’d then plan accordingly, likely staying at home, as long as possible. How convenient is that?

tufts medical center online toolI’ve had to bring family members to the ER before, and one of the hardest parts is not knowing how long we’d have to wait. Checking-in with an online tool like the one the Tufts ER has developed can alleviate that long, anxiety-filled waiting on hard plastic chairs with a sick family member. Since Tufts launched the program last year, they’ve tracked patient usage and determined that those using the tool are seen within 15 minutes of their projected treatment time. That’s a serious reduction from the many hours people typically anticipate waiting to be seen in an ER.

And once patients get to Tufts, after waiting comfortably at home, it’s the same excellent medical care the hospital has been offering for over 300 years. Founded in 1796, Tufts Medical Center is the oldest permanent medical facility in New England and one of the first hospitals in the nation. Some of its earliest benefactors include Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. Today, Tufts Medical Center, the principal adult and pediatric teaching hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine, is a renowned academic medical center with both adult and children’s hospitals in downtown Boston.

Patients have been using the Department of Emergency Medicine’s tool for several months now, and the feedback has been extremely positive. “From start to finish this was the most efficient and pleasant visit to the ER/hospital I have ever had,” explained one patient. “I have been to the ER at least 6 times and have waited hours. This time I went online and had an appointment within hours… as soon as I walked in it was like a new day,” said another.

I’m a big fan of clever solutions that make life easier. I have apps on my smartphone to buy groceries, help me meditate, check in at the airport, and chat with family overseas; adding a tool to manage my time while waiting for non-life-threatening ER care—especially when I’m worried about a loved one who is ill? That’s genius.

Disclosure: I partnered with the Tufts Medical Center to write this post, but all opinions are mine. 

Photo Credit: IMG_4732 via photopin (license)