According to the May 11, 2010 Washington Post, the Reston Hospital Center emergency department in Northern Virginia has added a texting service. The article, Reston Hospital Uses Cellphone Texting to Announce Emergency Room Waiting Time, explains how the hospital has enabled cell phone texting so that patients and their families can learn how long the wait will be. At Reston Hospital’s Emergency Department visitors “…can text “ER” to the number 23000 and receive a reply with the most up-to-date wait time.” Visitors can also check out the wait time on the hospital’s web site.
This new hospital service is not just for aging parents, but for each of us who has sat for hours in a hospital emergency department at one time or another. The bonus for aging parents (and their adult children) is how texting is a patient-friendly diversion that may help to decrease the disorientation elderly patients experience when they visit an emergency room.
Another patient-friendly technology initiative that hospitals should pick up is at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Hopkins has set up a free, easy-to-access guest wi-fi network, rather than charging a daily rate, so potential patients can access to web resources and fill time with interesting activities rather than increasing frustration (and not worrying about. I have used the guest wi-fi access six times during visits to Hopkins, and the convenience of access enables me to continue my work even as I wait for appointments that are running late (a situation that Hopkins staff tries diligently to avoid). I am considering totaling up the amount saved from the daily rates charged at most hospitals and sending that amount to Hopkins as a contribution.