How St. Rose Dominican is making ER waits more comfortable

St. Rose Dominican Hospitals - Siena Campus in Las Vegas on Wednesday, October 9, 2013.

In the latest effort to lure patients with promises of a convenient ER, a Las Vegas Valley hospital group is letting emergency-room patients wait in the comfort of their own homes until they’re ready to be seen.

St. Rose Dominican Hospitals has started using InQuicker, a registration system designed for people who want to use the ER but aren’t at risk of dying from their health problem and don’t want to sit around in the hospital waiting room.

Users check in online for a “projected treatment time” at any of St. Rose’s three local hospitals, show up at that time and get “promptly seen by a health care professional,” St. Rose said in a news release.

InQuicker is not an appointment or reservation service, and users do not skip the ER waiting period, which, as anyone who’s ever been to an ER can attest, can last hours.

Instead, users can stay at home or somewhere other than the hospital waiting room. If St. Rose expects a delay, the would-be patient receives a phone call or email notification.

The system relies on automated keyword recognition to see if someone can really afford to hang out at home for a few hours before seeing a doctor.

According to the news release, InQuicker “is designed to filter certain symptom keywords that may indicate a life-threatening or debilitating medical condition. If the symptoms entered indicate such medical conditions, the user is prompted to dial 911 or go immediately to the nearest emergency room.”

Allen Marino, chief medical officer for St. Rose, said InQuicker is “a simple, convenient way for people with busy lives to conveniently access care for more minor medical needs.”

“Our patients deserve respect for their time in the emergency room,” he said.

The system’s rollout comes amid heightened marketing efforts from valley hospital groups, which run billboard and Internet ads showing ER wait-times. The waiting period is often said to be just a few minutes.

Moreover, the new system comes amid heightened competition from health clinics in local chain stores and strip malls that treat people with non-life-threatening ailments.

This includes a growing number of drop-in clinics at retailers such as CVS and Wal-Mart, where people get treated for sore throats, earaches and other minor problems. Urgent care centers, also spreading in the valley, offer the same services but also treat more serious problems such as fractures and lacerations.