The cost of waiting in emergency departments

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.

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