New Brunswick

ER wait times got you down? There could be an app for that

Student entrepreneurs in Fredericton have created a new app that could shorten wait times in New Brunswick emergency rooms.

New app would monitor ER wait times for patients with health problems that are less serious

Queue would notify less urgent patients when their turn to see an ER doctor is approaching. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Student entrepreneurs in Fredericton have created a new app that could shorten wait times in New Brunswick emergency rooms.

Queue, also known as a "mobile wait-time concierge," is a new system that would allow patients to spend less time actually sitting in the ER waiting room.

"In essence, you would wait a shorter period of time," said Joshua Sallos, chief communications officer at Queue.

"It would alert you that your estimated time for treatment is coming up within a certain threshold."

Sallos, a communications and public policy student at St. Thomas University, compared the app to popular, restaurant wait-list apps, that decrease the wait times for walk-in diners.

People would still go through the triage system at the hospital, but less urgent cases would then leave and expect to be notified when to return to see a doctor.

The Fredericton native said he and his team of three others would rely on data from historical records of the health-care system and partners with Horizon Health Network to get estimated wait times.

Sallos said the app's main focus would be on lower-priority cases, such as people with sinus infections or sore arms or whose doctors' offices are closed.

Wait times eliminated 

Although the developers are still discussing the time frame for how much time people would be given to get to the ER before their turn comes up, it could range from 45 minutes to an hour.

"We want to have a reasonable enough time that you're not waiting for nine hours in an emergency room, but we also don't want to burden the system by having people miss their appointments," he said.

The alerts would come through as a text message, a phone call or a notification from the application.

Patients could also access the app through the Queue website.  

Joshua Sallos is the chief communications officer at Queue, which has a new app that aims to decrease wait times in emergency rooms across New Brunswick. (Photo: CBC)

The app would be free for users.

"It comes down to health-care accessibility and public health care," he said.

Emely Poitras, a spokesperson for Horizon Health Network, said that under the triage system used by emergency rooms, the sickest and most vulnerable patients are cared for first.

She said patients with symptoms such as chest pain, for example, would fall under Levels 1 or 2, and would be examined and treated immediately.

Wait times for patients with non-urgent symptoms, such as sore throat, can vary considerably and can often be treated faster by using other healthcare options like a family doctor, nurse practitioner, after-hours or walk-in clinics, Tele-Care 811, and local pharmacist.

'An interesting concept'

The Fredericton startup was founded during a business competition in February called Startup Weekend, which included entrepreneurs from across the province.

Although the app is in its early stages, founders are hopeful it will take off soon and said they are working with the New Brunswick Medical Society and Horizon Health Network to discuss implementation.

"We find the concept interesting," said Emely Poitras, a spokesperson with Horizon Health Network. "However, it is too early for us to determine its feasibility at this time.

"We do look forward to learning more about this app and its uses."

Anthony Knight, CEO of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said there are a number of private-sector developers like Queue that are looking to enter the health-care system in Canada.

Knight hasn't met with Queue and doesn't have anything scheduled. 

But he said the app might encourage patients to choose one emergency room over another in the province, as some patients want to have a sense of the time they might have to wait in certain parts of the province.

"It's certainly information that patients could benefit from if they're trying to decide whether or not to attend an emergency rooms," he said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton