More than 100 hospital emergency departments are borrowing an idea from the restaurant industry: online reservations. Additional concierge services such as mobile apps for wait times make ER experiences more agreeable.

ERs are going mobile at least partly to increase patient satisfaction scores, which are tied to hospital reimbursement for Medicare patients under the Affordable Care Act. Higher scores = hospital bonuses.

The reservation service requires that patients describe their ailment. Patients who indicate they have serious symptoms such as chest pains are directed to go to the hospital or call 911.

Critics argue that if someone is able to make an appointment, it’s not an emergency and may encourage inappropriate use of already crowded emergency rooms. They also claim that the service may discriminate against lower-income patients who don’t have access to smartphones or computers.

However, the check-in service has undergone legal review and doesn’t appear to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act. A hospital’s triage and throughput process remains the same, and care is provided based on the most urgent medical need.

Physician’s Weekly wants to know… Do you think scheduled appointments qualify as an emergency?