Reducing ED usage for routine care was a major goal of the Affordable Care Act. However, multiple recent reports show that contrary to expectations, ED visits are continuing to spike all across the country. ED overuse is a costly problem, in terms of direct costs and indirect damage. Long wait times cause frustration and complaints, which inevitably spill out on social channels and reflect on your hospital’s reputation. 

Educating patients about alternative primary care can be challenge, however. Are patients aware of local options? With 66% of U.S. adults equipped with smartphones, leveraging mobile tools to manage ED traffic is a no-brainer. The following are app ideas ED providers can consider:

1. For patients arriving to the ED:

Offer visitors a simple ER app to view current wait times and the actual wait time post-triage. Patients can provide feedback directly from the app. This tells them: “We are listening, and we are keen to improve our service. Want to be seen sooner? View the nearest urgent care center; tap for GPS directions.”

Additionally, you can offer tips on how to minimize their bill. A user-friendly app explaining the financial effect of patients’ choices (copay vs. final bill, etc.) can encourage them to make responsible decisions.

2. For patients researching emergency care options:

Offer a branded urgent care app with easy search for in-network urgent care centers within proximity, with dynamically populated wait times. Allow patients to view common non-urgent conditions and symptoms. For example: “Do I need to go, or take my child, to the ED? Your app can help answer this question.”

Additionally, your app can send timely reminders for seasonal immunizations and wellness checks, advice regarding healthy habits, and more.

3. Engage super-utilizers:

If you have a group of “frequent flyers” visiting the ED for non-emergency problems, consider distributing an inexpensive smartphone with a pre-installed app. Enable patients to view overnight stay or primary care options within proximity, and see the face of their local primary care doctor. 

For more tips on how to design these efficient mobile tools, and how to launch them quickly without breaking the bank, download the whitepaper: 12 Hospital Apps for Quick Mobile ROI – Reducing ER Overuse, Preventable Readmissions, Referral Leakage, and Physician Burnout.