Research Activities, March 2014

Study documents racial disparity in duration of patient visits to the emergency department

Emergency Care

Emergency department (ED) length-of-stay is generally perceived as an important indicator of quality of ED care, since longer stays may mean that patients wait longer to see ED physicians and to obtain critical treatments and test results. A new study reveals racial disparity in duration of ED visits. The researchers analyzed data on 4.3 million ED visits in three States (Arizona, Massachusetts, Utah) during 2008. The mean duration for a routine ED visit was 238 minutes at teaching hospitals and 175 minutes at non-teaching hospitals. 

The mean duration of routine ED visits for black and Asian patients was shorter than white patients by 10.0 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, at teaching hospitals and longer by 3.6 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively, at non-teaching hospitals. Hispanic patients, when compared to white patients, experienced no disparity in duration of ED visits at teaching hospitals, but at non-teaching hospitals their mean duration of stay was 8.7 percent longer. The researchers also found that female patients generally experienced longer ED stays than male patients. 

Lack of health insurance did not have a significant direct association with longer mean duration of ED visits. The mean duration of ED visits was substantially longer at non-profit hospitals when compared to for-profit hospitals, and at level I trauma centers when compared to other trauma centers or non-trauma centers. The researchers believe that their findings may be used by decisionmakers in both public and private health care arenas to improve the timeliness of care provided in the ED and to understand the factors causing the racial disparity. 

See "Racial disparity in duration of patient visits to the emergency department: Teaching versus non-teaching hospitals," by Zeynal Karaca, Ph.D., and Herbert S. Wong, Ph.D. in the September 2013 Western Journal of Emergency Medicine 14(5), pp. 529-541. Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 14-R008) are available from AHRQ.


Page last reviewed March 2014
Page originally created March 2014
Internet Citation: Study documents racial disparity in duration of patient visits to the emergency department. Content last reviewed March 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.