A new service in some Valley hospitals and urgent-care centers allows patients to check into participating emergency rooms with an electronic device in order to avoid the facility’s waiting room.
The service, called InQuicker, allows patients to reserve a place in line at a participating hospital’s emergency room. After the patient fills out a form, reports his or her symptoms and checks into their chosen emergency room, they can wait at home for their reservation time and bypass the facility’s waiting room.
“It’s a great convenience for the patient,” April Hayes, the director of Mercy Gilbert Medical Center’s Emergency Department, said in a phone interview.
Ms. Hayes said this service could benefit those who want emergency room care for minor symptoms, but have to work around a busy schedule.
“Let’s say I’m getting off work at 4 p.m.,” Ms. Hayes said. “I can make my appointment for later.”
Patients can check in through InQuicker by going to the InQuicker website on their computer, smartphone or tablet. Once the site is accessed, a patient can search for a hospital, urgent-care center or doctor’s office in their area that uses InQuicker and pick a time to check in. If a person accesses the site using WiFi or a mobile device with location services enabled, the system will automatically display a list of participating medical facilities nearby.
Ms. Hayes said reservations made through InQuicker are subject to time changes, because the hospital may have to respond to patients with more critical symptoms who come into the emergency department without checking in on InQuicker. In these cases, people with a reserved spot may have to wait for another patient who needs emergency medial attention.
“It would be impossible for [the Emergency Department] to hold true to a true appointment,” Ms. Hayes said.
According to the InQuicker website, patients will be notified by phone or e-mail if the emergency room they checked in to is experiencing a delay.
Ms. Hayes said that if the emergency room becomes overwhelmed with emergency cases, health facilities have the ability to temporarily suspend the InQuicker system and keep people from making new reservations.
Ms. Hayes said hospital officials also have the ability to look at InQuicker reservations and contact patients if it appears they could require immediate medical attention.
“Most of the time, patients should only be using InQuicker for minor complaints,” Ms. Hayes said.
The InQuicker website has multiple warnings that anyone who may be experiencing a life-threatening injury or serious pain should just go directly to the emergency room or call 911. According to the website, the InQuicker check-in system picks up on keywords in the patient’s self-reported symptom list that may indicate a need for immediate medical attention. If the website finds a critical symptom on the patient’s check-in form, the program issues a message telling the patient to go to the emergency room immediately or call 911 for help.
Ms. Hayes said that while the system is accessible to anyone, most patients currently using InQuicker at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center tend to be technology users in their 30s or 40s.
“Anyone can use it, but I think it’s more user-friendly to those that are tech-savvy,” Ms. Hayes said.
Ms. Hayes said that the InQuicker service is also available in other health facilities throughout the valley: including Chandler Regional Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in downtown Phoenix.
Editor's note: Lauren Thompson is a journalism student at Arizona State University. She is covering the Gilbert beat for an intermediate reporting and writing class this semester.