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Truth about ER Visits: 2019 Data from CDC

What is the truth about ER visit waiting time? CDC’s 2019 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey reveals the median waiting time to see a physician or other provider in the Emergency Department was 14 minutes (see Table 4), a minute shorter than the previous year. Sixteen percent waited an hour or more. The average calculated wait time was 37.4 minutes. In 2019, most patients (55%) spent between one and four hours in the Emergency Room). About 56% arrived outside of the M-F 8a to 5p hours. More than half (57%) of ER patients were triaged as semiurgent or urgent when they arrived. (However, when billed at discharge or admitted to the hospital, the overwhelming majority of ER visits are likely to be billed as at least a moderate to high severity. Data not shown in this report.) Percent admitted or transferred to another hospital (including observation stays): 16.3%. Main reasons for an ER visit: stomach and abdominal pain, cramps or spasms; chest pain and fever. Cough, shortness of breath and headaches also were common. Of the 44 million injury-related (or poisoning or adverse effects) visits, 26% were for falls – more than double the rate of motor vehicle traffic-related injuries seen in Emergency Rooms. 2020 and 2021 ER information not yet available as of September 2022. Click on NHAMCS Emergency Department Summary Tables.

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