Most people know where their local emergency departments (EDs) are, but how many know where the closest EDs are while traveling? For anyone who suffers from a chronic health condition—or is traveling with someone who does—always knowing where to go in an emergency can provide some peace of mind in an otherwise frightening situation.
In 2010, the Emergency Medicine Network (EMNet), an international research collaboration based at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, developed an app that provides this essential information. The EMNet findERnow app, available for free on iPhones and Androids, shows the distance and directions from a user’s current location (or a searched location) to the closest EDs—anywhere in the United States.
The ED landscape is changing continuously in the United States, with new EDs opening and others closing almost every day. We can make data updates to the app in real time so information is always current. The app also allows users to quickly phone the hospital or, if necessary, 911 emergency services.
We think this app is valuable for travelers, parents, and caregivers. Many others may find it useful as well, such as emergency medical transport providers who need to locate the nearest ED on long transports or ED staff who are relocating and want to learn about local EDs in a new area.
Building the App
We initially collected the data used in findERnow to create the unique National Emergency Department Inventory-USA database, which includes information about all EDs that have been open since 2001. A few years later, we mapped out the location of every ED to develop the first version of the findERnow app, thereby sharing our comprehensive database with the public.
For a few years, we had wanted to enhance the app by providing additional ED-specific information. In 2015, we started a collaboration with the R Baby Foundation, which, like EMNet, strives to improve emergency care. With funding from the foundation, we surveyed the more than 5,000 EDs identified in our app to learn more about their pediatric capabilities.
This pediatric information has been incorporated into the app. As of March 2017, app users who subscribe to the new Pediatric Upgrade can quickly view ED-specific pediatric characteristics, an important tool given the variability in pediatric emergency care. When users see a baby icon next to the name of an ED, they can know that the facility is more likely to be prepared to provide emergency care for children (e.g., the ED has a pediatric emergency care coordinator).
In addition, all findERnow users can now freely and quickly access basic characteristics about any ED, including whether it is a verified trauma or burn center.
An Essential Resource
We hope that by differentiating EDs using the baby icon, our findERnow app will help parents improve their children’s emergency care and will motivate many EDs to improve their pediatric emergency care preparedness.
Our goal is for everyone in America to have findERnow on their smartphone. More than 30,000 people have downloaded the app, and we know that most learned about findERnow through word-of-mouth. We hope healthcare stakeholders will help us spread the word as we get ready to launch our first major marketing campaign with the R Baby Foundation.
Krislyn M. Boggs is a project coordinator at the Emergency Medicine Network, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
Carlos A. Camargo, Jr. is director of the Emergency Medicine Network, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.