Background: Previous data over an extended period indicated that Black and Hispanic patients waited significantly longer than their White counterparts to see a qualified practitioner in US emergency departments (EDs). Objective: The objective of this study was to assess recent trends and sources of racial and ethnic disparities in patient wait time to see a qualified practitioner in US EDs. Data Sources: Publicly available ED subsample of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS), 2003-2017. Research Design: A retrospective cross-sectional analysis of a nationally representative sample of visits to US EDs from 2003 to 2017. Joinpoint statistical analysis and survey-weighted regression were used to assess changes in ED wait time by race/ethnic group over time. Principal Findings: For non-Hispanic White patients, median ED wait time increased annually by 1.3 minutes from 2003 through 2008, decreased by 3.0 minutes from 2008 through 2012, and decreased by 1.7 minutes from 2012 to 2017. For non-Hispanic Black patients, median wait time increased annually by 2.0 minutes from 2003 through 2008, decreased by 3.8 minutes from 2008 through 2015, and remained fairly unchanged from 2015 through 2017. For Hispanic patients, the trend in median wait time remained statistically unchanged from 2003 through 2009. It decreased by annually by 4.7 minutes from 2009 to 2012 and by 1.5 minutes from 2012 through 2017. By the end of 2017, median ED wait time decreased to under 20 minutes across all 3 groups. Conclusions: Over time, ED wait times decreased to under 20 minutes across all racial and ethnic groups between 2003 and 2017. Observed disparities were largely the result of where minority populations accessed care and disappeared over time.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- care quality
- emergency department
- ethnic disparities
- racial disparities
- wait time