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A new study appearing in the Health Affairs Journal says that Emergency department (ED) wait times have increased from 1997-2004. The increase is even greater for those suffering from acute myocardial infarction (AMI, commonly known as a heart attack) and is especially pronounced amongst minorities, women, and urban residents. The results showed:

Between 1997 and 2004, the wait to see an ED physician increased from a median of twenty-two minutes in 1997 to thirty minutes by 2004 (4.1 percent increase per year), equivalent to an extra 1,550 years that Americans spent waiting in EDs in 2004. Median waits for patients diagnosed in the ED with AMI also increased from eight minutes to twenty minutes (11.2 percent increase per year). The patients triaged to the “emergent” group had median waits that increased from ten minutes in 1997 to fourteen minutes in 2004 (a 3.6 percent increase per year). In addition, wait time for patients who presented with chest pain and whom ED staff ultimately diagnosed as having AMI (n = 683) also increased (12.2 percent per year).


…wait times in bivariate analysis of the group of all adult patients, for whom the median wait was twenty-five minutes. Whites waited a median of twenty-four minutes, while blacks waited a median of thirty-one minutes and Hispanics, thirty-three minutes. Females waited slightly longer than males, a median of twenty-six minutes versus twenty-five minutes. Patients seen in urban EDs waited a median of thirty minutes, while the median wait for those seen in nonurban EDs was only fifteen minutes.

When going to an emergency room, one expects immediate treatment. However this study shows that is not necessarily true. We must figure out a way to fix solve this so that it does not cost us more lives. What are your suggestions?

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