One Spanish hospital developed an app to provide another means of directing such "convenience” patients away from the ED and into primary care. Here are two key takeaways from its experience:
1. Make wait time comparisons between the ED and alternate care sites readily available
Hospital de Torrevieja, a 270-bed hospital located in Spain, determined that 54% of its ED visits were for low urgency needs (i.e., level 5 on the Emergency Severity Index), which increased overall wait times.
Based on the assumption that many of these low-acuity patients were just looking for the most convenient site of care, the hospital created an online platform that allows patients to easily compare wait times between the primary care physician, the ED, and alternative options, such as a teleconsult. Patients can then use the platform to book appointments at their preferred site.
2. Use texts to remind patients that their PCP may be the most convenient access point
After using the platform, many patients opted out of unnecessary emergency care—but some patients still made the trip to the ED for primary care services. For those patients, Hospital de Torrevieja's online platform automates a text message after the ED visit to let them know how much shorter their wait time would have been if they'd gone elsewhere.
Torrevieja calls these clever texts "I told you so” messages. It's the hospital's way of reminding patients, right when the memory of their long ED wait time is fresh in their minds, that it may be easier to see their PCP next time.
The hospital's investment in the online platform has been worth its while. Today, only 17% of its ED presentations are low urgency—a staggering decline from its previous rate of 54%.