A study published in the American College of Emergency Physicians' journal found that most patients wait longer than triage standards would dictate when they go to receive treatment at hospital emergency departments.
The study, US Emergency Department Performance on Wait Time and Length of Visit, found that only one-quarter of all patients who need admission for inpatient hospital treatment are actually admitted within four hours of arriving at the emergency room. In addition, less than 15% of emergency departments met their triage wait-time goals 90% of the time in cases where patients needed to see a physician within one hour.
“We found that hospital emergency departments perform fairly poorly in seeing acutely ill patients within the time recommended by the triage nurse,” lead study author Leora Horwitz said in a news release. The study analyzed a random sampling of 35,849 patient visits at 364 emergency departments in 2006.
Unlike other countries, the U.S. has not defined excess ER wait time. The National Quality Forum, which has proposed establishing quality measures for ER wait times, has yet to define a target length of visit in the U.S., according to the ACEP release.