Wait times in U.S. emergency departments are increasing. A new study published in Economic Inquiry indicates that prolonging the wait time in the emergency department for a patient who arrives with a serious condition by 10 minutes will increase the hospital's cost to care for the patient by an average of 6%, and it will increase the cost to care for moderately severe cases by an average of 3%. There were no increased costs associated with waiting among relatively healthier patients.
The findings suggest that longer emergency department wait times exacerbate costs.
"Most people appreciate that long waiting times hurt patients, but our results show they also contribute to a growing economic concern: rising healthcare costs. One problem is feeding another," said co-author Lindsey Woodworth, PhD, MA, of the University of South Carolina.