ACEP: Emergency room wait times put safety at risk

July 29, 2010

The national average wait time in emergency rooms is jeopardizing patient safety, the American College of Emergency Physicians warned this week.

South Bend, IN-based Press Ganey Associates released its 2010 Emergency Department Pulse Report (.pdf file), which analyzes data from 1.5 million patients in nearly 1,900 emergency rooms across the country. The report found the average wait time in an ER is four hours and seven minutes. Irving, TX-based ACEP blames the lengthy wait time on the number of patients without health care coverage relying on ERs for their medical needs.

The report referenced an American Hospital Association survey from March that found 17 percent of hospital ERs exceeded capacity and 21 percent were at capacity. These capacity problems caused 22 percent of hospitals to occasionally divert ambulances, causing longer rides to hospitals.

ACEP said health care reform legislation will not improve the situation, pointing out that Massachusetts, which passed health care reform in 2006, has seen an increase in ER visits.