Hospital ED Wait Times Reveal Huge Variations

Cheryl Clark, May 7, 2012

Hospital leaders who believe their emergency room patients' wait times compare well with competitors may have to rethink those assumptions now that two ED wait time quality metrics are posted on the Hospital Compare website.

The times for the 74 hospitals—the first to volunteer their data—show wide variation across the country.

For example, for the first measure (ED-1)—the median time between when patients enter the ED door until they leave the ED for an inpatient bed—times range from 387 minutes at Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital in Niagara Falls, NY, and 358 minutes for Memorial Hermann Baptist Orange Hospital in Orange, TX, to 52 minutes at Perry Memorial Hospital in Perry, OK, and 90 minutes at Paynesville Area Hospital in Paynesville, MN.

Best-practice hospitals keep this time under four hours for all patients, not just as the median, says Sandra Schneider, MD, past president of the American College of Emergency Physicians who has studied the issue and visited EDs around the country. However, 18 of the 74 hospitals posted median times of four hours or longer.

Times for the second metric in the database (ED-2)—the median time between the moment an ED doctor decides to admit patients to an inpatient bed and the time the patients actually left the ED for that bed—range from 170 minutes, both at Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, TX, and Niagara Falls Memorial, to no minutes at both Frio Regional Hospital in Pearsall, TX, and Pocahontas Memorial Hospital in Buckeye, WV.

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