[Infographic] The Reality of ER Wait Times

[Infographic] The Reality of ER Wait Times

How Long Will You Wait for Care?

By Dave Sellers

Emergency departments are responsible for about half of all hospital admissions, according to a RAND Corporation study. In fact, more people step into ERs every year, with visits hitting 136 million in 2015, up from 97 million in 1995, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Meanwhile, the number of emergency departments is down about 11% over that same time period. As a result, many people in need of emergency care are waiting longer to see a doctor.

Aware of these stats, we were curious about how long patients are really waiting to be seen. This infographic shares what we learned as we analyzed trends in ER wait times around the United States. Highlights include:

  • In the most extreme cases, the percentage of patients who leave before being seen is 18%, whereas the national average is 2%.

  • For facilities with the highest proportion of people leaving before being seen, 75% have wait times more than
    two times the national average for patients who choose to wait to be seen.

  • There are shorter wait times to see a physician at Critical Access Hospitals, a trend that is in line with lower wait times in more rural locations which is where CAH’s are located.

  • Residents of metro area and states with large population centers will likely wait quite a while to see a medical professional, be evaluated for admission, and get to a room, should they need to. 

Did you know that there is a moderately strong correlation (.48) between total bed count and time between admit decision and being taken to an inpatient room (also called “boarding time”)? This is counter intuitive, as one might expect a strong negative correlation such that as the number of beds increases, the time to get a person to a room would decrease.

Download the Infographic


Share this Image On Your Site


The Takeaway

The reality is, your ER wait time may be heavily determined by where a patient lives. For example, states with highest total variability from the average are:

  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Michigan
  • Georgia
  • Arizona

These states have many notable outliers that are much faster than the state average. For each facility in each state, we took the facility "% who left before being seen" minus the state's average "% who left before being seen."  The number was then added together for all facilities in order to get the "total variation" per state.

Understanding this variability in wait time, and knowing the stress this uncertainty can put on patients in need of emergency care, what can a hospitals do to address concerns and improve the situation?

  1.  Staffing to demand, an idea outlined in this MedPage Today article. Because doctors and nurses prefer to work weekdays, during normal business hours, most Emergency Departments (EDs) are relatively understaffed during off-hour peaks. This creates delays at the busier times and wasted resources during slower times. By studying patient volume over time, EDs can avoid triage by staffing appropriately and more accurately.
  2. Make reducing wait times a part of the hospital’s culture, as suggested by Healthcare Business & Technology. Healthcare executives must make wait times a priority in their facility. This means they must implement specific policies designed to address problems that can lead to increased wait times, including staffing policies. They must also commit to regularly evaluating their hospitals’ work flow and be willing to invest in solutions to speed up care delivery, including automated systems designed to streamline scheduling.
  3. Stay in tune with how your hospital's ER wait times stack up against your competition. Consider utilizing Stratasan's Development Brief, as it examines the market as a whole, while providing insight as to how your hospital or health system is performing against market and competition standards.

For more information about Stratasan’s software and services—which can help to gauge performance, track market standing, and better understand your competition—schedule a discovery call today.

Infographic by Dave Sellers, Data Specialist at Stratasan

Connect with Stratasan on LinkedIn or follow Stratasan on Twitter and Facebook


New call-to-action



data visualization data analytics healthcare demographics infographic