Wait times at emergency departments continue to increase nationwide

The state of emergency care in the U.S. might be much improved if every state followed the lead of Wisconsin. The Badger State not only ranks ninth in the nation in terms of time spent in emergency departments for patients (an average of roughly three-and-a-half hours), but also boasts two of the top 10 metro areas ranked in the nation in terms of patient satisfaction. 

Nationwide, however, patients today are cooped up in EDs for longer periods of time than ever before, according to healthcare consulting company Press Ganey's latest Emergency Department Pulse Report. From arrival until discharge, patients spend an average of 4 hours, 7 minutes in emergency departments--a four-minute increase from 2008. Patients in Utah spend an astonishing eight-and-a-half hours in emergency departments, on average, the report shows. 

Still, the report wasn't all bad news. Seventeen states were able to reduce patients' time spent in EDs, led by Nevada, which shaved more than an hour (66 minutes) off of its 2008 total. Fifteen more states boasted either reduced wait times or were able to keep wait times to within five minutes or less of the previous year's totals, the report concludes. 

Keeping patients in the loop about wait times is one of the key drivers to improving satisfaction, according to Deirdre Mylod, Press Ganey's vice president of hospital services. "Patients would, of course, prefer a more efficient process," she said. "But good communication helps them understand the processes within the emergency department environment and shows them that staff has not forgotten them." 

Other methods for boosting ED patient satisfaction, according to the report, include: 

  • Analyzing and interpreting patients' perception of care
  • Identifying priorities for improvement specific to each institution
  • Facilitating change management within the hospital, including accountability and reward and recognition
  • Improving clinical and operational processes to improve flow and reduce waiting time 

To learn more:
- read the full report
- here's the accompanying press release