10 States With the Longest Emergency Room Wait Times

·3 min read

The rate of emergency room visits has increased significantly over recent decades in the U.S., rising from 360 visits per 1,000 residents in 1995 to 445 in 2017, according to a report released recently by Autoinsurance.org.

The report, which analyses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that Washington, D.C., has the longest median wait time in the nation for admitted patients waiting for an inpatient room after seeing a doctor in the emergency department.

According to the report, admitted patients in the nation's capital wait a median of 286 minutes for their room in the hospital.

Nationally, admitted patients spend a median of 103 minutes waiting for a hospital room, according to the report. The initial screening is far shorter, with more than 40% of patients seeing a physician, nurse of physicians assistant within 15 minutes of checking into the emergency department.

Delaware, New York, Maryland and Connecticut joined Washington, D.C., with median waiting times above 150 minutes.

These 10 states have the longest median wait times for admitted patients:

-- 1. District of Columbia: 286 minutes

-- 2. Delaware: 153 minutes

-- 3. New York: 153 minutes

-- 4. Maryland: 152 minutes

-- 5. Connecticut: 152 minutes

-- 6. New Jersey: 150 minutes

-- 7. California: 150 minutes

-- 8. Rhode Island: 147 minutes

-- 9. Massachusetts: 131 minutes

-- 10. Hawaii: 131 minutes

If two states had the same median wait time for admitted patients, the tie was broken by considering their median wait time for patients who were ultimately discharged, meaning that they are not admitted to the hospital and are sent home.

With a median wait time of 46 minutes for admitted patients, South Dakota boasts the shortest emergency department wait.

These 10 states have the shortest wait times:

-- South Dakota: 46 minutes

-- Kansas: 55 minutes

-- Wyoming: 58 minutes

-- Iowa: 60 minutes

-- Wisconsin: 61 minutes

-- Nebraska: 62 minutes

-- Utah: 62 minutes

-- Montana: 63 minutes

-- Mississippi: 67 minutes

-- North Dakota: 68 minutes

According to the report, most visits don't require immediate attention. In order of increased severity, visits are categorized as nonurgent, semiurgent, urgent, emergent, emergent and immediate, and only 9% of emergency department visits are categorized as "emergent," while 1% require immediate attention. The majority of cases are considered "urgent."

Among the authors' other notable findings:

-- More than 25% of emergency room department visits are for patients below the poverty line

-- Painkillers are the most common drugs prescribed during emergency room visits.

Casey Leins is a staff writer for the Best States section of U.S. News & World Report, where she writes about innovative solutions to problems plaguing the states. She came to U.S. News as an intern in 2014, joined the News team as a web producer in 2015, and was part of the team that launched the first Best States ranking in 2017. She was selected to attend the McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute workshop held by the Poynter Institute in 2017, and previously worked as a writer for the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Howard County Times. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at cleins@usnews.com.

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