ER wait times on rise nationwide

Wait times at emergency departments across the country are soaring, as various hospitals report wait times far above the national average.

Wait times at Kings County Hospital Center in New York, for example, are up to 113 minutes, four times longer than the national average, according to the New York Daily News. The average wait time nationwide to see a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant is 28 minutes, according to a report released by ProPublica

Meanwhile, the statewide wait time in Louisiana is 27 minutes, just under the national average, but for some Bayou State hospitals, it is far higher. For example, at Baton Rouge's Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, which serves roughly 140,000 ER patients a year, wait times average about 53 minutes, WFAB reported.

ER wait times often vary depending on population density and patient influx. In the Jackson, Miss., metro area, it takes about 96 minutes to see a doctor at Baptist Medical Center, 41 minutes at Central Mississippi Medical Center, 45 minutes at River Oaks Hospital, 57 minutes at St. Dominic Hospital and 53 minutes for the University of Mississippi Medical Center, WDAM reported.

Higher ER patient volumes could be to blame, including patients who use the ER for dental care, a new study by the Florida Public Health Institute finds. More than 139,000 Floridians with toothaches, oral sores, cavities and related complaints went to the ER in 2012, a 6.4 percent increase over the previous year, the report states.

In Greensboro, N.C., 10 percent of ER cases involve dental issues, and nationally, more than 2 million people sought dental care through an ER, Charles H. Norman, president of the American Dental Association, wrote in an opinion piece for CNN, citing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ambulatory care survey.

However, some ERs' report their wait times are improving. University Medical Center Brackenridge, a level-one trauma center in Austin, Texas, cut wait times from 56 minutes to 32 minutes in the past two years, KHOU reported. And Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Ozaukee ER in Mequon, Wisc., where staff receive training to manage ER patients quickly and effectively, guarantees a wait of 30 minutes or less, according to Mequon Now.

Another way to reduce ER wait times is to change the way the department sorts patients, FierceHealthcare previously reported. For example, Mercy Health's Anderson Hospital in Cincinnati boasts an ER wait time of 12 minutes. Doctors now go to patients instead of patients being routed to doctors, without changing the order in which patients are seen. And a doctor, nurse and technician work together to diagnose patient care. 

To learn more:
- here's the Daily News article
- read the ProPublica breakdown
- here's the WAFB article
- check out the KHOU piece
- read the WDAM article
- here's the Mequon Now story
- check out the dental study
- read the CNN opinion piece
- read the CDC survey

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