The objective of this study was to explore perceived waiting time, actual waiting time and their relations to satisfaction of patients of the emergency department (ED). We hope to provide management priority of ED patient care to improve the quality of the ED service according to patients’ opinions and demands.
We used “time motion study” to measure ED patient’s actual waiting time and gathered both perceived waiting time and satisfaction toward ED services from the questionnaires. In addition, we adopted an “intervention” to explore its effects on satisfaction. In this study, a simple random sampling was used for the emergency patients at a medical center. For our investigation we analyzed 196 samples gathered from 2000/01/08 to 2000/01/28. The result of this study are shown as follow:
1. Over one half of the triage patients were category III (55.6%), followed by category II (40.3%). Most of them are internal medicine patients and discharged in one day. There were significantly differences between perceived and actual waiting time. The longer the waiting time was, the larger the difference between actual and perceived time. Patient satisfaction caused by perceived waiting time was significantly higher than that caused by actual waiting time.
2. ED patients spent most time on waiting laboratory test results, followed by waiting x-ray test reports and on waiting to see the consulting doctor. The longer the waiting times were, the lower the satisfactions. Therefore, these three kinds of waiting times should be our first priority to improve the ED services.
3. Three of the patient characteristics (time of arrival, mode of arrival and disease pattern) were significantly associated with the waiting time of the ED. The characteristics of patients, such as sex, age, education, disease pattern, time of arrival and mode of arrival, were significantly associated with satisfaction.
4. The intervention during waiting laboratory test results could only reduce the time from specimen collection to login it, but it couldn’t speed up the laboratory testing time. Their satisfactions were the same as without intervention. However, the intervention shortened the waiting time for x-ray test results and significantly improved satisfactions.
This study suggest that
(1) It’s necessary to treat major and minor disease in separate rooms to meet the demand of minor disease patients, and to provide the information of waiting times for all patients to decrease dissatisfaction.
(2) The ED information system should be established. They will help doctors to deal with the patient’s reports in time and save the patient’s waiting time.