ER waiting room

(First published on MedCityNews)

If OpenTable can save people the time and hassle of waiting at a busy restaurant, why can’t an online check-in system do the same for patients visiting an overcrowded emergency department?

Stacie Pawlicki, the vice president of marketing for Nashville digital health startup InQuicker, said it actually can: The 150 hospitals that use the company’s online waiting service generally see shorter wait times for patients in the ER and greater patient satisfaction scores – a metric that’s become increasingly important for providers.

“Generally they see improvements with load volume, and they’re being proactive to know who’s coming in, which allows them to optimize flow,” she added. That’s important because ERs tend to be lucrative places for hospitals, but they’re seeing more foot traffic these days adding up to some 130 million patients each year.

Emergency departments that use InQuicker’s platform allow patients with non-life-threatening scenarios (those that would likely wait the longest in the ER anyway) to check in online and spend the time they would normally be sitting in a waiting room doing other things.

Patients visit the InQuicker landing page on a hospital’s website, enter some basic information and virtually “check-in.” They can also opt to be notified if there are changes in the estimated wait time. That way, they can better manage their time, and the ER can plan better knowing who’s going to be walking in the door and when.

The startup serves other markets, too. For urgent care centers and doctor’s offices, the service takes on more of a scheduling function. Patients go the clinic’s or provider’s website and choose a convenient check-in or appointment time, which they can cancel or move at any time.

About 150 hospitals and 50 urgent care clinics use the platform, said CEO Michael Brody-Waite. Those include North Shore Medical Center, IU Health after-hours care and University Hospitals in Cleveland. But the ultimate goal, he said, is to improve 5 million patient experiences every year. That leaves plenty of room for growth.

The company’s strategy is to establish itself not as the maker of a product but as a partner and provider of services, from the time when clients are considering buying the product to when they implement it and as they use it. In one instance, the company responded to a hospital client’s feedback by creating a specific version of the appointment scheduling platform it now runs on an iPad for patients to use to schedule follow-up appointments before they leave.

Brody-Waite attributes some of the company’s ability to do that to bootstrapping. He and co-founder Tyler Kiley funded early growth of the company with credit cards and money from their 401(k)s. Now that the company is turning a profit and re-investing it to continue growing, its founders have become outspoken advocates of bootstrapping.

Kiley, the son of a hospital CEO and an ER nurse, developed the foundation of InQuicker in 2006 and piloted it at his father’s hospital, Emory-Adventist hospital in Georgia. Brody-Waite left Dell and joined the startup in 2009.

“Our priority is not a valuation. We don’t have an exit strategy,” Brody-Waite said. “Our priority is to change the patient experience. We need to have the leverage to be able to say no to people who may think that we shouldn’t do something that we’re doing.”