The Effects of Publishing Emergency Department Wait Time on Patient Utilization Patterns in a Community with Two Emergency Department Sites: A Retrospective, Quasi-experiment Design
International Journal of Emergency Medicine
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BACKGROUND: Providing emergency department (ED) wait time information to the public has been suggested as a mechanism to reduce lengthy ED wait times (by enabling patients to select the ED site with shorter wait time), but the effects of such a program have not been evaluated. We evaluated the effects of such a program in a community with two ED sites.
METHODS: Descriptive statistics for wait times of the two sites before and after the publication of wait time information were used to evaluate the effects of the publication of wait time information on wait times. Multivariate logistical regression was used to test whether or not individual patients used published wait time to decide which site to visit.
RESULTS: We found that the rates of wait times exceeding 4 h, and the 95th percentile of wait times in the two sites decreased after the publication of wait time information, even though the average wait times experienced a slight increase. We also found that after controlling for other factors, the site with shorter wait time had a higher likelihood of being selected after the publication of wait time information, but there was no such relationship before the publication.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings were consistent with the hypothesis that the publication of wait time information leads to patients selecting the site with shorter wait time. While publishing ED wait time information did not improve average wait time, it reduced the rates of lengthy wait times.