Increased emergency department (ED) wait times lead to more patients who leave without being seen and decreased patient satisfaction. Many EDs post estimated wait times either online or in the ED to guide patient expectations. The objectives of this study were to assess patients' awareness of online wait time data and to investigate patients' willingness to use this information when choosing between two academic EDs in London, Ontario.
A prospective study was conducted over a 2-month period in a tertiary ED with online available wait times. Patients over 18 years of age assigned a Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) score of 3, 4, or 5 were approached by trained research assistants to complete a 15-item paper-based questionnaire. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to determine factors independently associated with the outcomes.
A total of 1,211 patients completed the survey. Of these, 109 (9%) were aware that ED wait time information was available on the Internet; 544 (45%) reported that they would use the available data to make a decision on which ED to visit, and 536 (44%) indicated that they were more likely to go to the ED with a shorter wait time. Age, gender, household income, education, and Internet access were not associated with awareness of online ED wait times. Participants less than 40 years of age were more likely to use online wait time information.
There is low awareness of the availability of ED wait time data published online in the study locaton. Future research may include the delivery of a public awareness strategy for ED wait time data and a re-evaluation of ED use and patient satisfaction following this.