Emergency department length of stay: Accuracy of patient estimates

Brendan T. Parker, Catherine Marco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Introduction: Managing a patient's expectations in the emergency department (ED) environment is challenging. Previous studies have identified several factors associated with ED patient satisfaction. Lengthy wait times have shown to be associated with dissatisfaction with ED care. Understanding that patients are inaccurate at their estimation of wait time, which could lead to lower satisfaction, provides administrators possible points of intervention to help improve accuracy of estimation and possibly satisfaction with the ED. This study was undertaken to examine the accuracy of patient estimates of time periods in an ED and identify factors associated with accuracy. Method: In this prospective convenience sample survey at UTMC ED, we collected data between March and July 2012. Outcome measures included duration of each phase of ED care and patient estimates of these time periods. Results: Among 309 participants, the majority underestimated the total length of stay (LOS) in the ED (median difference -7 minutes (IQR -29-12)). There was significant variability in ED LOS (median 155 minutes (IQR 75-240)). No significant associations were identified between accuracy of time estimates and gender, age, race, or insurance status. Participants with longer ED LOS demonstrated lower patient satisfaction scores (p<0.001). Conclusion: Patients demonstrated inaccurate time estimates of ED treatment times, including total LOS. Patients with longer ED LOS had lower patient satisfaction scores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-175
Number of pages6
JournalWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine


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