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Emergency room wait time on the rise

The findings of a recent study by the Harvard Medical School on the wait time in emergency rooms accentuates the importance of an on-going relationship with a clinic and/or medical provider. Researchers found that the median emergency room wait time increased 36% between 1997 and 2004.

Patients needing emergent attention waited 40% longer, while median waits for AMI (acute myocardial infraction) patients increased 150%. A variety of factors probably contributed to longer waits, including crowding as a result of Emergency Department (ED) closures and an increase in total ED visits; inpatient bed shortages leading to bottlenecks in the ED; increasing uninsurance; population aging; shortages of staffing, space, and interpreters; and difficulties assuring non-ED follow-up care.

The study notes, “Prolonged ED waits have serious implications for the quality of care. Known effects include prolonged pain and suffering, patients leaving without seeing a physician, and dissatisfaction with care…Importantly, protracted waits could translate into treatment delays for time-sensitive illnesses.”

Finally, “Longer waits for patients evaluated by a resident physician may reflect the lower efficiency of physicians in training or longer waits at academic centers.”