If you ever find yourself checking into an emergency room in Colorado, you’ll get in to see a doctor pretty quick. But if you find yourself in a Maryland ER, your wait could be a whole lot longer.
In Oregon? Patients wait an average of 28 minutes to see a doctor. That's much less than the 53-minute wait in Maryland, the longest in the nation. But it’s exactly twice as long as the wait in Colorado and Utah, which had the shortest wait time, according to data compiled by ProPublica, an investigative reporting organization.
Drawing on publicly available data between March 2016 and April 2017 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, ProPublica charted the average timepatients wait in ERs before they experience one of four outcomes: they see a doctor, they get sent home, they’re given pain medications for a broken bone or they are admitted to the hospital.
In Oregon, which has the eighth-longest average wait time, patients spend an average of 146 minutes before they’re sent home.
Of the state's hospitals that were ranked, Harney District Hospital in Burns and Providence Seaside Hospital on the coast tied for the lowest average wait times, at 12 minutes. Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls had the longest wait time, at 70 minutes.
A variety of factors can influence ER wait times — including the population density surrounding a hospital, staffing levels and the acuity of care a hospital can treat.
The larger Portland hospitals have longer wait times than the smaller ones. OHSU's are the highest of all.
Jennifer Packer, OHSU's Director of Emergency Services, said the longer waits are a symptom of high hospital occupancy and the complexity of cases the emergency department receives from all over the state. OHSU is a level 1 trauma center.
"We're seeing patients that smaller EDs are sending to us," Packer said. "We recognize this is a challenge and have been putting an effort into making sure ED wait times are limited."
Just Tuesday, OHSU opened a rapid medical evaluation area within the ED to treat less serious cases, since those typically wait the longest. Someone bleeding profusely will be seen sooner than someone with a cold.
Click through the gallery of Portland hospitals’ wait times. One note: The two Kaiser Permanente Northwest hospitals were not included in the data.
The Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.