Ohio.com – Akron General puts ER wait times on billboards, Internet

Trying to avoid a painfully long wait in the ER?

One local hospital system is publicly sharing the current average wait time to see a doctor at all its emergency departments.

Akron General Health System recently began advertising up-to-the-minute wait times for its emergency rooms on billboards throughout town.

Six digital billboards in Akron are automatically updated every 20 minutes to show current average wait times to see a doctor …

The average times are computer generated, based on current patient information from the health systems’ electronic medical records…

via Ohio.com – Akron General puts ER wait times on billboards, Internet.

I think this isn’t terrible, as long as there’s some education that a) these are average times and that b) if you have a real emergency you go to the head of the line.

Oddly, I think this is different than the (currently boutique) practice of scheduling an appointment at an ED over the internet.  I think if you have the time to schedule your emergency, you don’t have one.  So, get a doctor and go there.

Bring on the ‘average wait times’, but make sure the same display is visible in the waiting room!


  1. Bladedeoc says:

    Hmm, interesting. A year ago our hospital got dinged on an EMTALA violation because one of our ED docs put up a sign outside the ED saying that the average wait was 4 hours (which was true). The claim was that he was trying to keep patients out. I guess if you put the times up when they’re good as well as bad it’s OK?

  2. Steve Lucas says:

    It may be important to remember that Akron has a large low income and student population and the ER has become their primary care physicians. The practice in the area is that doctors schedule weeks in advance and after hour calls are all told to go to the ER. Often doctors send patients to the ER for testing instead of scheduling with the appropriate office.

    The ER has become an extension of the doctor’s office and this is wrong on so many levels.

    Steve Lucas

  3. What’s funny is that nobody picks an ED based on time! So what they’re really doing is saying ‘hey, we’re a nice place’, but doing it on a metric that’s as relevant as, oh, telling you how full their parking lot is.

  4. Obviously , this is an idea from Administration- not from the ER.
    Administration always makes promises that we cannot keep.

  5. Quite interesting indeed. Just wondering what happens when you have a real emergency that can’t wait even for the shortest of time.

  6. TheNewGuy says:

    If it’s truly an emergency, then the wait time shouldn’t matter, should it?

    If the wait time is what makes-or-breaks your decision to go to the hospital, it’s not an emergency… it’s a inconvenience.

  7. whitecap nurse says:

    People still appreciate information – even if it’s a long wait time. Problems will occur when a patient exceeds the posted wait time. I thought it was an EMTALA violation too because it might discourage patients from waiting/coming. Nonetheless, I routinely tell patients what the current wait time is.

  8. I also consider it a bit of an oddity. With a true emergency, the nearest facility is usually the best course of action. But having two sons who routinely decided to spike outrageous fevers, have the minor accident requiring stitches on w/e nights, I can appreciate the concept of posting average waiting times. I also appreciate the facilities which run the “fast track” for minor emergency.

    Tammy Swofford

  9. Comments slow to load, Grunt Doc.


  10. Works okay for me. Might have been that I was posting a new post as you were commenting. Thanks for the heads up, and the comment.