Nobody likes spending hours and hours sitting around a crowded waiting room, not knowing who will be called next. So imagine if patients and families could be notified via text message about the number of patients ahead of them while grabbing a bite to eat or going for a walk?

Patients and families visiting the Montreal Children's Hospital's Emergency Department (ED) can sign up via their smartphones or by registering at a kiosk located just outside the ED's triage area. The service lets them "wait" in a virtual waiting room rather than a physical one with the help of their cell phones–something that's sure to please more than a few stressed-out parents.

Thanks to a team of two engineers at the McGill University Health Centre, Jean Pierre Cordeau and Jorge Pomalaza, along with Dr. Harley Eisman, Director of the Montreal Children's Hospital's Pediatric Emergency Department, this ideal scenario is now a reality.

How it works

"Once a patient has been evaluated by the triage nurse, parents can input either their child's hospital card or Medicare card number to register for the text message (SMS) service via the kiosk or the website," says Cordeau. "Parents must also provide a cell phone number and select French or English language preference. Once the information has been submitted, they will receive their first SMS within a few minutes, detailing a summary of their child's status in the Emergency Department."

Once the first text message has been sent, parents continue to receive updates on their child's position in the ED waiting room every five minutes to ensure they are kept up to date on any changes. Once there are only five or less patients ahead of them, the family will receive a text message notifying them that they will soon be called for evaluation.