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."