ED patients will wait 3.5 hours, no longer

A group of doctors recently decided to do some analysis of their patient satisfaction surveys and try to determine how long patients were willing to wait in the emergency room before they got upset. The answer they found was surprisingly precise: 3.5 hours.

What the doctors from Beaumont Hospital in Troy, Michigan found when they looked into the surveys they conducted was that the patient satisfaction dropped precipitously--from the 83rd percentile nationally down to the 49th percentile--when they had been forced to wait more than three and a half hours. And if they had to wait more than four hours, it dropped down to the 24th percentile.

The fact that the longer patients have to wait the more upset they get is not news. What was surprising to the doctors, however, was that patients were seemingly willing to wait up to 3.5 hours when sick or in pain; the doctors recognized that that is a long time when a patient is under the weather.

So now emergency departments have something to aim for: get those patients out of the waiting room before three and a half hours are up...or else!

To learn more about these findings:
- Read this Wall Street Journal blog