Study: ED waits are climbing

With emergency departments under increasing strain, patients are waiting significantly longer for care than they did in the past, according to a new study by Harvard Medical School researchers. According to the study, which appears today in the journal Health Affairs, half of ED patients waited 30 minutes or more before being examined by a doctor in 2004, up 36 percent from 22 minutes in 1997. 

More worrisome was the fact that waits were high for seriously-ill patients. For example, more than half of heart attack patients waited 20 minutes or more to be examined in 2004, up from eight minutes in 1997. Generally speaking, patients whose conditions should have been attended to within 15 minutes were waiting at least 14 minutes to see a doctor, up from 10 minutes in 1997.

Researchers drew their conclusions from data provided by the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, collected between 1997 and 2000 and from 2003 and 2004.

To get more information from the study:
- read this Washington Post piece

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