In a nation where it seems there are never enough hours in the day, patience is not an American strong suit. Especially when we're in pain. So getting people in, treated and out of emergency rooms has become a challenging but obligatory task for health care providers.
In a nation where it seems there are never enough hours in the day, patience is not an American strong suit. Especially when we're in pain.
So getting people in, treated and out of emergency rooms has become a challenging but obligatory task for health care providers.
That's why patients heading to the emergency department at Methodist Medical Center can visit the hospital's Web site and find out how long they can expect to pass the time, before even setting foot inside.
The service, unique to the area and updated four times an hour, lists the average waiting time for patients suffering from minor medical problems, such as back pain, insect bites or toothaches. Those with more serious aliments - heart attack or stroke symptoms, broken bones or life-threatening diseases and trauma - are tended to as soon as possible.
On Tuesday, the average time fluctuated anywhere from about 20 minutes to nearly an hour but hovered mostly between 35 to 45 minutes.
Since the timer is less than a week old, most patients likely are not aware of it. Still, Cheryl Rogers, suffering from reoccurring headaches, said she liked the idea and would use it in the future.
"I hate waiting," the 25-year-old Peoria woman said Tuesday after spending about 45 minutes before seeing the doctor. "If people plan on doing anything else, they can always plan their time around it and get things done before or afterwards."
The time is calculated by a computer that tracks when patients check in and until they are seen by a triage doctor who works in the emergency department's waiting room and handles only noncritical cases. The waiting time is only posted on the Web site while that physician is on duty from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.
"Every 15 minutes the computer goes out and measures the length of stay for patients that we've already seen," said Tony Howard, administrative director for emergency services at Methodist. "So if in the past 15 minutes the doctor saw six patients it would take those six patients and average that time."
Howard said about 30 percent of the emergency room's volume of patients is treated and discharged from the waiting room. The hospital has made it a goal to treat those injuries in 30 minutes or less.
That might be hard to do after a study published earlier this year in Health Affairs examined more than 90,000 emergency department visits across the country and found that between 1997 and 2004 waits for all patients increased 36 percent, on average from 22 minutes to 30 minutes.
While the time increases affect all groups, waits were slightly longer for African-Americans, Hispanics, women and those at urban hospitals.
Frank Radosevich II can be reached at (309) 686-3142 or email@example.com.