National Average Time in ERs Increases to Four Hours, Three Minutes

According to the "2009 Emergency Department Pulse Report: Patient Perspectives on American Health Care," patients now spend an average total time of 4 hours and 3 minutes in the emergency room, which is a 27-minute increase in the nationwide average time since 2002. The report, released this week by South Bend, Ind.-based health care consulting firm Press Ganey Associates Inc., analyzes the experiences of nearly 1.4 million patients treated at 1,725 emergency departments nationwide in 2008.

Notable findings from the study include:

  • South Dakota has the lowest total time spent in the emergency department (3 hours, 52 minutes) while Utah has the highest total time (6 hours, 48 minutes).
  • Two states showed notable improvement in their emergency department average total times over the year. Virginia patients spent 23 fewer minutes in the emergency department in 2008 than they had in 2007, while patients in Maryland spent 14 fewer minutes in the ED last year.
  • The metro areas with the highest patient satisfaction in the emergency department for 2008 were, in order, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and New York/Long Island. Miami moved up from third on last year's list, while Detroit moved up from fourth. Philadelphia was a new entry in the top 10.
  • Patients who arrive in the emergency department between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. report higher satisfaction than those who arrive in the evening or overnight hours. Lowest satisfaction was reported among those who are in the emergency department between 3:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
  • While average total times have increased since data was first collected in 2002, patient satisfaction is improving as many hospitals are communicating better with patients about delays.
  • The economy is having a significant impact as the proportion of emergency department patients without insurance is increasing. Fewer patients are seeking inpatient and elective services.

"Today's health care landscape, shaped by quality initiatives, transparency, and consumer choice, gives patients the ability to decide for themselves where to receive care," says Richard Siegrist, Press Ganey president and CEO. "Improving patient satisfaction in the emergency department is particularly critical for health care leaders because it is often the most visible public face of a hospital or health care system."

The report, which highlights progress being made in hospitals and explores how the quality of U.S. health care can be improved, is available at www.ImproveMyER.com. The site offers resources on emergency departments and improvement solutions for both consumers and administrators.

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