Study: Emergency Room Wait Longer for the Poor

WASHINGTON, DC - A regional study from the California HealthCare Foundation has found there are longer waiting times in emergency departments for patients in poorer neighborhoods.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars' Program at the University of California in Los Angeles, was recently published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

While the average waiting time was determined to be 56 minutes, 42 percent of patients waited more than 60 minutes. The study found for every $10,000 decline in per capita income within a zip code, patients waited 10 minutes longer.

"Emergency departments have a triage process to sort patients by the severity of their illnesses and injuries to ensure the sickest patients are seen first," says Susan Lambe, MD, lead author of the study. "While our study found many patients wait more than an hour for emergency care, we were not able to look at the severity of their injures or illnesses. While our study doesn't fill in all the blanks, it does find people who visit hospitals in low-income areas are more likely to experience long waits, and physician and nurse staffing should be investigated as a means of reducing waiting times."

The Oakland-based California HealthCare Foundation is an independent philanthropy committed to improving California's healthcare delivery and financing systems.

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