How Fast Is the Hospital ER Near Me?

 In CHR Blog

Speed is probably the first thing you think of, if you need an Emergency Room. Should consumers be concerned about ER waiting time at their nearby hospital’s Emergency Department?  Check the ratings.  After you arrive, 22 minutes[1] is how long patients wait, on average, to see a provider.  That’s according to the latest report from the federal government at Hospital Compare.

Consumers are justifiably concerned when ER waiting time could be a matter of life, death, or relief from excruciating pain.  Because consumers won’t have time to check ratings of local hospitals when they are in immediate need, it’s wise to do your research ahead of time.

The government reports eight different measures of time in the ER that consumers might be interested in.  For example, Hospital Compare lets consumers look at how fast they’ll get pain medication for their broken bones, at each hospital. The national average is 48 minutes, but this varies by hospital and by state. Both Florida and Illinois have average times of 42 minutes.  Wisconsin hospitals on average do even better – at 35 minutes.

Once you get in for examination, be ready for a long “visit”. For a high-volume ER – 40,000 to 59,999 visits per year – expect at least two hours, 40 minutes total. If the patient is admitted for overnight, expect it will be 5 hours in the ER, then another 2 hours to wait for an inpatient bed. Long day.  See more average times for heart attack and stroke patients in the chart below.

How likely is it that you will need an  Emergency Department?  The likelihood is pretty strong that you or a loved one will make a trip to the Emergency Department every few years for one reason or another.  According to the CDC, 17.5% of kids and 19.4% of adults age 18 and up had at least one ER visit in 2016. Those numbers are up from 2015.

Consumers may want to consider other factors in addition to wait time.  At Hospital Compare, consumers can compare 3 hospitals at once on their ER scores and a wide range of quality measures.

When hospitals know consumers are looking at the ratings, they pay more attention to their own performance. Let’s hope you don’t need an Emergency Department this year. But if you do, your care should be thorough, caring and efficient.

Leave a comment to let us know how long your recent ER visit was.


Emergency Department measures at Hospital Compare
(sample measures related to timeliness of care)
National Average (scores are for full year 2017, high volume hospitals)
·         Wait to see a provider after arrival – Average (median) time patients spent in the emergency department before they were seen by a healthcare professional ·         22 minutes (high volume hospitals)

·         16 min. (low volume)

·         Total time in ER (not admitted) – Average (median) time patients spent in the emergency department before leaving from the visit ·         2 hours, 40 minutes
·         Time in ER before being admitted – Average (median) time patients spent in the emergency department, before they were admitted to the hospital as an inpatient ·         5 hours
·         Time in ER waiting for an inpatient room (admitted) – Average (median) time patients spent in the emergency department, after the doctor decided to admit them as an inpatient before leaving the emergency department for their inpatient room ·         118 minutes
(nearly 2 hours)
·         Heart attack (EKG) – Average (median) number of minutes before outpatients with chest pain or possible heart attack got an ECG ·         7 minutes
·         Heart attack transfers – Average (median) number of minutes before outpatients with chest pain or possible heart attack who needed specialized care were transferred to another hospital ·         57 minutes
·         Stroke – Percentage of patients who came to the emergency department with stroke symptoms who received brain scan results within 45 minutes of arrival ·         73%
·         Broken bones (pain management) – Average (median) time patients who came to the emergency department with broken bones had to wait before getting pain medication ·         48 minutes

For more on Emergency Room quality and to check your local hospital ratings, see Emergency Room/Emergency Department Ratings – Free at .

[1] National median for January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017.  See chart.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Tyler Johnson

    That’s interesting that the average wait time for an ER visit is about 22 minutes. That seems like a while, but when I think about how long it takes to get an appointment at a doctors office that makes more sense. 22 minutes is actually not too long to wait unless your seriously dying, which if you were I’m sure they could get you in faster.

  • Gretchen Dahlen

    Mr. Johnson, thanks for writing – it’s interesting to see the times vary in different states. In the latest quarterly update, average times in Alaska, for example, were higher: 30 minutes (vs. 22) for a high volume Emergency Department and 21 minutes (vs 16) for a low volume ER.

  • Jeaneth La Corte-Gonzalez

    I went to my nearest ER in Central Florida this week with chest pain. Had EKG within the first 30 minutes, then a 1 view chest x-ray 4 hours later, and after 5.5 hours waiting to be seen, I left. I couldn’t be told how much longer the wait was. I have chest pain today again. But I will not go back to that ER.

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