How are ER Wait Times Calculated?

ER Wait Time and Its Significance

ER, wait times constitute the time from ER visit till being discharged after treatment or admitted for further treatment. ER times are significant because they measure the performance and care provided by one of the most important hospital departments. Emergencies need to be handled and treated quickly. Hospitals are constantly working on improving their service to reduce wait times in ER. Measuring the wait times is very beneficial in finding how long admission processing takes, how quickly the physician examined the patient and the quality of medical care provided by the staff. They are advantageous in allocating supplies and resources in a better way. It, in turn, helps to reduce workloads and stress as well as keep things streamlined. So, calculating ER wait times can help hospitals to improve their care, services, and management.

How are ER Wait Times Calculated?

ER wait times can be measured by calculating a patient’s time between entering ER and then getting discharged and being admitted to the hospital. This time can be measured by collecting information from the hospital’s customer relationship management (CRM) or admission software. It can also be collected from the medical records of the patient.

A healthcare data analytics administrator checks out all the factors responsible for the decrease in patient satisfaction—especially considering emergency departments because it’s the busiest area. People visiting emergency rooms expect the best care in no time. Firstly, the time to reach triage is calculated. It is a crucial time for severely injured and sick patients. Secondly, the time taken by the physician to attend to the patient is measured. Thirdly, the patient is provided treatment and discharged or admitted to the hospital for further health care. This time is also taken into consideration. All this data is measured against metrics to check for weak points. That’s how the services of ER department and it has life-saving importance. So, the estimated ER wait time is about one hour. Many situations affect this time, like the patients arriving by ambulance who are in critical condition. These patients are treated first.

How are Average ER Wait Times Calculated?

The list showing ER wait times of patients is renewed every 30 minutes in hospitals. The time of renewal may vary from hospital to hospital. Three types of average wait times are median, mean, and mode averages. The mean average is the sum of all wait times divided by the total number of wait times. If all the wait times are in numerical order, the median average is the number in the center of the list. Mode average is the wait time that occurs more often.

Why are ER Wait Times so Long?

Emergencies are never pleasant. People rush towards the nearest ERs to get themselves or their loved ones treated immediately. It has plenty of patients that need treatment. Some are severe, while others may not have a life-threatening injury. Long ER waits are quite common all over the world. Here are some reasons behind lengthy waiting times.


In everyday lives, we come across many restaurants, stores, and other areas that provide services based on a first-come, first-serve basis. It is not the case for emergency departments. They are based on the step called triage. According to triage, there are levels of severity of the patient’s condition. It’s the first procedure to examine ER patients to categorize them based on their medical condition. Those who are critical will be treated first than others.

Examining patients

Another important factor is the time taken for diagnosis. Examining each patient takes time. The physician may suggest a blood test, x-ray, CT scan, MRI, etc. this is time-consuming. Even some ERs don’t have labs and testing equipment. It increases the wait times for other patients.


Every hospital has a specific number of beds available. The number of beds indicates the number of patients the hospitals can accommodate while they are being treated. The staff can provide services and treatment to all these patients. In some cases, all the beds are full, which means the staff treats them all and cannot take more patients at the moment. In such circumstances, you will either wait or rush towards another hospital.

Medical Specialists

Some ER patients need a checkup from the specialists like neurologists, cardiologists, etc. ER doctors are available, but the specialists are not readily available, so they can take time to arrive.  During this period, the patient lies on the bed. It results in greater waiting times for other patients who are not even diagnosed.

Uncertain Circumstances

Uncertain circumstances like earthquakes, floods, car accidents, pandemics, etc., make the ER overcrowded. Sometimes the number of patients in such emergencies is greater than the number of beds. It’s quite challenging for the staff to handle. It contributes towards larger ER wait times.

ER Closures

According to different surveys, the number of ERs is reducing in number. Some hospitals have closed their ER departments. It has caused an increase in the wait times.

Busy Times

Hospital staff is available from Monday to Friday. The timings are 9 am to 6 pm, which varies in hospitals. Unfortunately, this time doesn’t coincide with the busiest emergency room timings. Most of the emergencies take place after the office timings or mostly on weekends. The staff is not enough, and ERs become crowded. The physicians may not be available. Care at the right place, at the right time, and by the right person becomes difficult. Hence the patient has to wait for their turn.


Emergencies are horrible. They are very much challenging both for the staff and the patients. ER wait times are long because of many factors that are mentioned above. The factors are such that we have to deal with them. They can’t be neglected, and it’s impossible to vanish them. Nowadays, hospitals are concerned for human lives and patient satisfaction. They try their level best to treat in the best way in no time. They are especially focused on the functioning of emergency departments. Running an ER is quite expensive and challenging. Fortunately, advanced ERs are based on a direct-to-bed policy to minimize the wait times to a larger extent.