For years now, consumers have used the Internet to book vacations, car rentals, even auto repair appointments, but booking a reservation at an emergency room?
"It's that (situation), you get home from work and you see your kiddos for the first time, and you realize something is going on," said Jim Parisi, Chief Operations Officer at Memorial Hermann Katy. " And you can't get into the pediatrician but you know somebody is sick enough that really needs to be seen. It's a nice way of being able to hold your place in line."
Dave Elkins works for HealthPost, the Houston based company that developed Memorial Hermann's check in program.
"We're in an online age basically," he said.
Besides the ER, patients can also book doctors appointments and fill out information forms. The result? No more telephone time spent waiting on hold or navigating a prerecorded menu, and no more long sits in waiting rooms filling out paperwork.
And the upside for the hospital?
"It frees up our staff to take care of same day appointments and other urgent issues," said Dr. Hina Pandya.
The system lets patients report their symptoms so their doctor can have some idea before the appointment takes place. A nurse pre-screens those symptoms.
"If they think there's something urgent, then we call the person and say come on in now or call the ambulance," Parisi said.
The check-in service is new. Parisi says Memorial Hermann's busiest facility gets about seventy 'ER check-ins' per month, mostly from parents of children fighting fevers or with sudden schoolyard injuries.
And while the concept of online reservations isn't new to other industries, as a thirty-year veteran in the hospital industry, even he is surprised with the technology.
"I wouldn't have predicted that somebody could make a reservation for the "ER" and hold their place in line," he said.
Oh, how times have changed.