If you’re unfortunate enough to need a visit to the emergency room, you could be waiting a while. A recent study showed that emergency department waiting times are increasing in length – and the trend shows no sign of letting up. Surprisingly, despite the longer emergency room wait time, patients are satisfied with the emergency services they receive.
Emergency Department Waiting Times Are Growing
A recent study looked at the emergency room wait times of 1.5 million patients seen in 1900 emergency rooms nationwide. In addition to documenting their wait times, the E.R. patients were asked to score their experience on a 100 point satisfaction scale.
The bad news? Emergency department waiting times rose by 31 minutes between 2002 and 2009. The shortest wait emergency room wait times were in Iowa, where patients spent just under three hours in the emergency room. Better think twice before moving to Utah – unless your doctor makes house calls. Patients there spent an average of over eight hours in the emergency room.
There’s good news too. Despite the average E.R. wait time growing, patient satisfaction did too. The average satisfaction rating was a respectable 84 out of 100, indicating patients weren’t unhappy with their overall emergency room experience – despite the wait.
Why is the Average E.R. Wait Time Longer?
The demand for emergency room services is growing, as hospitals that offer these services are declining. In addition, the number of primary care doctors is not rising fast enough to meet the patient demand – especially since Obama health care will create an influx of newly insured patients, eager to see a doctor. This will increase the wait time in doctor’s office as they absorb new patients. When the wait time in a doctor’s office becomes too long – or when doctors close their practice to new patients because of patient overload, people are forced to head to their local emergency room instead – and the overcrowding of emergency rooms reaches new proportions.
Why the High Satisfaction Level Despite a Longer Emergency Department Waiting Time?
Emergency room personnel are making an extra effort to communicate and keep patients informed about what’s going on ‘” and how long they can expect to be in the emergency room. Good communication seems to be the key to patient satisfaction, when the average E.R. wait time is long.
Emergency Department Waiting Times: The Bottom Line?
Emergency room wait time will continue to grow as newly insured patients enter the system – so expect to wait. The best advice is to use the emergency room only for emergencies. For non-emergent medical problems – save yourself the hassle – and see your regular doctor.
Medscape.com website. “Emergency Department Wait Times Continue to Rise”