Online check-in streamlines emergency room visits

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 6:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 5 at 6:33 PM

DALLAS — After toughing out serious pain overnight, Jacqueline Dorsey didn't want to wait any longer to see if her ankle was broken.

But she did.

"Had to sign in and wait for them to call my name, get my blood pressure and stuff, sit back down again and wait for them to call me again," Dorsey said.

Even without many people in the waiting room at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, it took 45 minutes before she was brought back for an exam.

Methodist Dallas treated about 60,000 patients in its emergency room last year. More than 60 percent weren't emergencies, according to hospital statistics.

A new online check-in system may reduce or even eliminate the wait for many of those patients.

Methodist's QuickER website lets patients fill out some personal details — including symptoms — at home or work, then show up at a scheduled time.

The system is designed to detect key words that might signal a real crisis.

"And if those key words are like 'chest pain,' 'shortness of breath,' it will flag them when they are entering their complaint or their condition and tell them this is probably not a service for them, or to call 911," explained Joben Rieth, the hospital's director of emergency services.

ER staff is alerted immediately to check symptoms that might make it through the system, just in case. Staff will call the patient on the phone to get further details and decide if the patient should be seen immediately, call 911, or can wait for the next available time.

The idea is to streamline operations, reduce time spent in the waiting room, and reduce the spread of germs.

"For instance, in flu season, if they're all sitting in the waiting room and they bring their kids to the ER and their family members, they could also get the flu," said emergency room Dr. Joshua Kern.

Jacqueline Dorsey likes the idea of online check-in. "That would be easier," she said.

Dorsey, like thousands of North Texans, does not have a family physician and relies on the ER on the rare occasions she requires medical attention.

The next time that happens, Dorsey says she'll check into the emergency room from home.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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