Emergency Department Wait Times Vary by State, Study Finds
Visitors to U.S. hospital emergency departments wait an average of 222 minutes, or 3.7 hours, before being seen by a provider, and patients in California wait an average of 230.2 minutes, according to a new state-by-state study released by Press Ganey Associates, USA Today reports. The study, which examines wait times at EDs across the nation, is based on 1.5 million patient questionnaires filled out in 2005.
The study finds that EDs in Iowa and Nebraska had the shortest wait times, with averages of 138.3 minutes and 146.1 minutes, respectively. EDs in Arizona and Maryland had the worst wait times, at 297.3 minutes and 246.9 minutes, respectively. EDs in California have the 42nd longest wait times in the nation.
Press Ganey President Melvin Hall said Midwestern states often have shorter ED wait times because of their lower occupancy rates. By contrast, metropolitan hospitals often have longer ED wait times because many patients go there for treatment of routine medical problems and are forced to wait longer while more critically injured patients are treated.
According to USA Today, the study's findings are important because ED patient satisfaction is based in large part on the amount of time spent waiting to be seen. As a result, many hospitals are seeking to improve patient satisfaction by promising to see patients quickly "as a marketing tool," USA Today reports.
"There is hardly a hospital in the country that is not in some way focused on wait times in the emergency room," Hall said. Glenn Hamilton of Wright State University added, "It's not just a satisfaction issue. It's a safety issue" (Fuson, USA Today, 6/1).