Two hospitals in Kansas City and Detroit have launched a “30-minute guarantee” in its waiting room since June 1, and another hospital chain has started a 15 minute wait time to make themselves more efficient services to the public. Those who do have to wait longer receive major league baseball tickets, cinema passes, meal vouchers, and written apologies as compensation for their time. This comes due to several factors including competition for healthcare money, a growing number of hospital visits each year, and the recent death of a California woman in a hospital waiting room.

The free gifts are meant to help ease the burden of waiting in hospital waiting rooms, but other techniques are being used to cut down on the wait times to nearly nothing. Hospitals are now using electronic tracking boards to report on patient status. Previously, they had used handwritten charts passed among staff. Now, physicians just type their orders into a database, and everyone already has all patient information in their hands. One hospital in Illinois skips the waiting room process and directs patients into private rooms where treatment and registration is done simultaneously.

In 2003, it was reported that hospitals around the country had 113 million emergency room visits. In 2006, ambulances were turned away from emergency departments once a minute on average. Sometimes, patients would wait hours or even days for treatment. This process can be dangerous for patients. Last month, a 43-year-old woman died in the waiting room of Martin Luther King Jr. Harbor Hospital in Los Angeles. She had come in with a perforated bowel and was not treated right away. Transportation to another hospital was refused, and the woman bled to death on the floor. Her death was ruled accidental, but at the same time, it was also preventable. Hopefully, these new policies will keep future tragedies like this from happening.

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