How a website helped reduce wait times at Hamilton emergency units

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Published August 3, 2021 at 6:37 pm

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Wait times across Hamilton’s seven emergency departments and urgent care centres were reduced and it may be because of a website.

After the launch of hamiltonemergencywaittimes.ca, researchers found that when the average wait time increased by 60 minutes, patient volume over the following hour would drop by an average of 10 percent.

This effect was more pronounced in community hospitals (like West Lincoln Memorial Hospital) and urgent care centres.

The website is a collaboration between Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. It shows individual wait times, along with graphs illustrating the average hourly patient volume. Information about the type of care provided at each location is also shown.

The study was led by Dr. Shawn Mondoux, a staff physician and quality lead in St. Joe’s emergency department and an affiliate of The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton.

“Our findings suggest that online wait time trackers may have a greater effect on patients who require lower-acuity care, such as walk-in treatments,” said Dr. Mondoux. “There may also be added utility during the pandemic, allowing patients to reduce their time spent waiting in crowded emergency rooms or urgent care centres and thereby reducing potential exposure to COVID-19.”

Dr. Mondoux and his team of clinician-researchers assessed outcomes related to the wait times website. They analyzed the number of new patients arriving every 15 minutes at each location, before and after the implementation of the website.

“Our findings suggest that online wait time trackers may have a greater effect on patients who require lower-acuity care, such as walk-in treatments,” said Dr. Mondoux. “There may also be added utility during the pandemic, allowing patients to reduce their time spent waiting in crowded emergency rooms or urgent care centres and thereby reducing potential exposure to COVID-19,” he added.

Locations listed on the website and included in the study include St. Joseph’s Charlton Campus, Hamilton General Hospital, Juravinski Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, the Urgent Care Centre at St. Joe’s King Campus, and the Urgent Care Centre on Main Street West.

“Sharing wait times information supports a more informed, empowered patient journey,” said Dr. Kuldeep Sidhu, Chief of Emergency Medicine at HHS.

The website also allows patients to request a virtual appointment with an emergency department physician.

Future studies and quality improvements for Hamilton’s emergency wait times website are currently planned or already underway.

Researchers say they are now looking to understand how distance from emergency and urgent care sites affects patient wait time upon arrival. Other possible factors that may influence wait time or site selection are also being studied, including past experiences with specific hospitals and patients’ postal codes.

Cover photo courtesy of stjoes.ca

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