Introduction: Our goal was to evaluate patients’ threshold for waiting in an emergency department(ED) waiting room before leaving without being seen (LWBS). We analyzed whether willingness towait was influenced by perceived illness severity, age, race, triage acuity level, or insurance status.
Methods: We conducted this survey-based study from March to July 2010 at an urban academicmedical center. After triage, patients were given a multiple-choice questionnaire, designed toascertain how long they would wait for medical care. We collected data including age, gender, race,insurance status, and triage acuity level. We looked at the association between willingness to waitand these variables, using stratified analysis and logistic regression.
Results: Of the 375 patients who were approached, 340 (91%) participated. One hundred seventyone(51%) were willing to wait up to 2 hours before leaving, 58 (17%) would wait 2 to 8 hours, and110 (32%) would wait indefinitely. No association was found between willingness to wait and race,gender, insurance status, or perceived symptom severity. Patients willing to wait >2 hours tended tobe older than 25, have higher acuity, and prefer the study site ED.
Conclusion: Many patients have a defined, limited period that they are willing to wait for emergencycare. In our study, 50% of patients were willing to wait up to 2 hours before leaving the ED withoutbeing seen. This result suggests that efforts to reduce the percentage of patients who LWBS mustfactor in time limits. [West J Emerg Med. 2012;13(6):463-467]