|Scott Paul knew he needed to head to the emergency room on a recent Sunday after his foot became so painful he couldn't walk. The one thing that gave him pause was the thought of having to wait several hours next to a bunch of sick people.|
But his wife, Jeannette, remembered she'd seen Dignity Health television commercials featuring a woman sitting in a hospital waiting room and then cutting to the same woman sitting on her living room couch as words come up on the screen: "Wait for the ER from home."
"I've been in emergency rooms before, so I thought I'd see if this worked out," she said, and went online to book an appointment for her husband at Dignity's St. Mary's Medical Center in San Francisco.
"They actually had an appointment that was within the hour. It was fast, it was convenient and there was also immediately confirmation we had the appointment," she said.
Dignity Health, which runs a large network of hospitals out of its San Francisco headquarters, also offers online ER booking at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco and Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City as a way to overcome the frequently grueling emergency room wait times.
Dignity isn't the only network employing the strategy. In an era of increased competition driven by the nation's Affordable Care Act, hospital executives around the country are hoping online appointments will attract patients eager to avoid...