Tired of Long Waits In ER? There's An App For That!

It looks like a cross between a selfie and FaceTime conversation. But this app is the latest way Georgians can see a doctor when they can't - or won't - wait.

Piedmont Healthcare VP of Marketing and Physician Outreach Katie Logan holds her smartphone in front of her face and talks to an ER doctor, describing her symptoms.

He asks Logan if she's had a running nose, or sinus pressure. Has she had any difficulty breathing, he wonders.

Logan is demonstrating the "Piedmont On Call" app, the newest way Georgians can see the doctor without a wait.

App users: Click here to watch video

She says you download the app to your smartphone or tablet, hit a button, and for $100 your instantly connected to a board-certified emergency medicine doctor.

"They're going to ask you a few questions," Logan says. "You're going to talk to them about what's going on. You may hold your phone up and show them your throat or the rash on your arm."

The Piedmont On Call virtual checkups debuted in late December. The visits are not covered by health insurance, but Logan says you can use your health savings account dollars to pay the $100 fee.

Logan says it's been a little slow so far, but they expected that.

"This is a new technology, this is a new way of talking to a physician," Logan says. "And for some people, that can be very scary. But we feel like there is a demand and will continue to be a demand for this service. Again, it's 'I want healthcare on my terms.'"

One thing patients hate? Waiting. So, Piedmont Healthcare is now posting live wait times for 5 of its 6 emergency departments on its piedmont.org website. Logan says on high-volume days, knowing the wait times ahead of time can help manage patient expectations.

"For Piedmont, it's access. It's convenience," Logan says. "How do we make it easier for you? And a better experience for you?"

Across town at Piedmont Urgent Care by WellStreet, regional medical director Dr. Nelson Yuen says they also know time is money.

"There's a lot of competition," Dr. Yuen says. "There are a lot of choices out there, and we have to be better."

So, at their Virginia-Highland urgent care, they're working on a trial project. They've put in a patient status board. It's designed to show patients exactly where they are in line to see a doctor.

"Are they first. Are they third," Dr. Yuen says. "They can tell when a patient is discharged, just dropping off the board. And know 'I'm making some progress.'"

Yuen says the technology helps make his urgent cares more "transparent."

"The downside is that someone walks in, and there's 9 people on the board and it's, like, 'Oh, that's too many,'" Yuen says. "But, of course, the flip side of that is people can also just look around the waiting room.