BAYONNE, N.J. — Not sure you can make it to the emergency room on your lunch hour?
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A New Jersey hospital has started advertising its average emergency room wait times on electronic billboards.
The Bayonne Medical Center unveiled two billboards Tuesday, one in Jersey City's Journal Square neighborhood and on the New Jersey Turnpike near the Holland Tunnel.
Hospital officials said the postings show the average wait time from entering the door at the ER to seeing a medical provider. They claim patients wait less than 30 minutes on average at the center.
"We're dedicated to providing our patients the best possible care close to home," Daniel Kane, President and CEO of Bayonne Medical Center, said in a statement. Kane added that the billboards are part of the hospital's effort to offer quality care without long waits.
The Bayonne Medical Center claims to be the only hospital in the area to offer the billboards, but the trend is growing across the country. Advertising wait times on billboards or updating people by text message are tactics not meant for the most serious cases, experts say; those cases will go to an emergency room regardless. But they may serve to cut decrease backlogs by having people with less urgent conditions drive farther in search of a shorter wait.
In 2012, hospitals are supposed to begin reporting to Medicare how fast their ERs move certain patients through, part of a push to increase quality of care across the board. Experts believe the longer patients stay in an emergency department, the more likely they are to have complications.
A 2009 report from Congress' investigative arm found that too often, patients who should have been seen immediately waited nearly a half hour.
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