We recently had a health scare where a family member spent over 12 hours in the emergency room. While she was not thrilled to spend so much time there, she did ultimately get good medical care. So what is excessive time in the emergency room?

 

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) publishes a quality score which looks at average time in the emergency room. In fact, there are multiple measures of emergency wait times. The average patient waits a little over four hours (based on 4,822 hospitals) in the emergency room before being sent home. What is really curious is some of the longer wait times. There are seven hospitals where the average wait time is over 1,000 minutes or over 16 hours capped by Bayshore Medical Center in Texas where the average wait time is nearly 33 hours. More and more facilities like Bayshore are publishing their current wait times (like TSA at the airport). 

 

Just like the busiest airports, the busiest emergency rooms tend to have the longest wait times. The treemap below shows a visual image of the hospitals with above average wait times. As you can see, about 70% have high or very high volume as defined by CMS. So as you think about time in the emergency room, ultimately you probably want to think in terms of care first (even as you grow impatient).