The hospital “emergency room” may no longer exist, ceding its place in modern medical care to emergency departments (ED) that handle an increasing volume of visitors. In 2015 there were 136.9 million emergency department visits, 9% of which, or 12.3 million, resulted in hospital admission according to the CDC. Just because only one in ten ED visitors were admitted to the hospital, however, doesn’t mean the other visitors weren’t in need of serious attention. Of the 2015 ED visits, 28.5%, or 39.0 million were injury-related. We’ve written about medical tech that assists emergency personnel and first responders, including a pilot project by Massachusetts’ Brewster Ambulance Service using Amazon Alexa to recite appropriate protocol steps while attending or transporting patients and a study in Argentina in which ambulance attendance took on-site ECG readings and used WhatsApp mobile app messaging to transfer the data to hospital cardiologists.

Earlier this month Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Emergency Medicine Network (EMNet) announced an update to findERnow, a smartphone app that helps users locate the most accessible ED department throughout the U.S. EMNet originally released the findERnow in 2010. FindERnow accesses EMNet’s nationwide ED database with information on ED’s general and special characteristics and capabilities, annual patient visit volume, and whether the ED is a trauma or burn center. The free findERnow app is available for both iPhone and Android smartphone users. According to Carlos Camargo, MD, DrPH, an MGH physician and EMNet division chief, the most frequent request, particularly from paramedics, was drive-time estimates. The new software version integrates real-time traffic data. Ambulance personnel can use the app to choose a destination ED not only based on distance, but also on how long it will take to get there from the ambulance’s current location.

EMNet developed and launched findERnow as a public service to help patients and responder get to emergency departments quickly. EMNet currently consists of 245 medical centers, 41 of which are international. A pediatric-specific version of findERnow is available for a 99-cent annual subscription fee, supported by the R Baby Foundation.