Hospitals, meanwhile, market their freestanding EDs for their convenience and short wait times. And indeed, since acutely ill patients are often diverted to hospital-based emergency departments for care, it's not surprising that waits are generally much shorter at freestanding facilities, where door-to-discharge times may be 90 minutes or less, compared with 180 minutes for hospital EDs. Whether a shorter wait results in actual health benefits isn't always clear, however, say experts.
"There are some data showing that long wait times are a problem for some medical conditions," says HSC's Carrier. "But it's not necessarily clear that consumers will see improved health if they don't have to drive an extra five minutes."
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-Andrews writes for Kaiser Health News an editorially independent news service and a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan healthcare policy research organization. Neither Kaiser Health News nor the foundation is affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.