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Health Aff (Millwood). 2008 Mar-Apr;27(2):w84-95. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.27.2.w84. Epub 2008 Jan 15.

Waits to see an emergency department physician: U.S. trends and predictors, 1997-2004.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School affiliated with the Cambridge Health Alliance, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


As emergency department (ED) patient volumes increase throughout the United States, are patients waiting longer to see an ED physician? We evaluated the change in wait time to see an ED physician from 1997 to 2004 for all adult ED patients, patients diagnosed with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), and patients whom triage personnel designated as needing "emergent" attention. Increases in wait times of 4.1 percent per year occurred for all patients but were especially pronounced for patients with AMI, for whom waits increased 11.2 percent per year. Blacks, Hispanics, women, and patients seen in urban EDs waited longer than other patients did.

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