Alexandria, VA– Alexandria residents now have a way to compare waiting room times at multiple area emergency rooms, pediatric emergency rooms, and urgent care centers. ER Ticker, a website developed by Alexandria resident Paul Hong, provides real-time information about 41 Northern Virginia facilities.
Paul started the project in 2016 out of love for his wife; he is married to an Emergency Medicine physcian. Since his wife sometimes came home late after busy shifts, he started paying attention to the wait times at the INOVA Emergency Departments where she works. He realized that the longer the wait time, the busier the staff was, the later his wife would get home. That’s when he decided to develop ER Ticker, a website that tracks the latest waiting room times.
Then he learned that some patients go to the emergency department for non-emergent problems and he had an idea.
“It was really my wife who urged me to look at urgent cares. She knew that the audience was going to be people who are not in a life-or-death situation… I’m not sure how much the general population knows about urgent cares, but at the time, I didn’t know they existed.”
Emergency departments are designed to treat patients with life-threatening conditions. Patients who have life-threatening concerns should always go to the closest emergency department or call 911. Those patients don’t have time to wonder about where to go.
Emergency departments see these patients first because time is critical, which means that patients who don’t have a life-threatening condition may end up waiting longer. Patients without life-threatening concerns have other options for immediate attention, like urgent care centers, which are designed to treat patients with minor illnesses and injuries.
The closest emergency departments in Alexandria are INOVA Alexandria Hospital and INOVA Mount Vernon Hospital. While residents can look directly at INOVA’s website to check the wait times, ER Ticker monitors several facilities in the area, regardless of the healthcare organization.
“I don’t have a relationship with any of the hospitals, hospital groups, or urgent care centers,” says Paul. “I feel like this has a lot of value. It’s a central location for information on the local hospitals and facilities.”
Paul noticed that there is a national database that provides wait times for competing hospitals, but it only provides averages for any given facility. ER Ticker updates every 10 minutes, based on the real-time information provided by each facility.
“I really want real-time data. That’s what I want. It doesn’t matter what your average was last year. It matters what your wait time is right now.”
The website assigns icons to help residents choose where to go:
For the moment, Paul is focusing on Alexandria and Northern Virginia, but he can see expanding ER Ticker to more locations in the future. He also wants to eventually include more detailed information about the specific strengths and services that each facility offers.
During the upcoming busy holiday season, ER Ticker may be the difference between a night spent in a waiting room or a night spent with family.