When a medical emergency hits, the tendency might be to simply go to the nearest hospital and hope to get seen right away — and if you’re truly in dire shape then this is probably good advice because even if you’re not admittedly immediately, you are surrounded by nurses and doctors. But for people whose medical needs are urgent but not URGENT, there might be a faster-moving emergency room a few miles down the road.
That’s the kind of thing that ProPublica’s new interactive “ER Wait Watchers” tool can help you figure out.
Plugging in your ZIP code will provide you with wait time data, driving distances, and patient recommendation stats for nearby emergency rooms.
It’s important to note that the times given by the tool are NOT real-time estimates intended to tell you exactly how long a patient will wait to be seen. Instead, this info is based on publicly available data from the federal government, along with expected drive times to the hospital. It also has phone numbers people can call to try to get an up-to-the-moment estimate on wait times.
So while you don’t know for certain that the wait time at the hospital down the block is twice as long as the wait time at the emergency room in the next town, it does give consumers an easy way to compare how quickly the local hospitals have gotten around to seeing patients in the past.
Each ER also has a percentage rating showing the likelihood of previous patients to recommend the facility. That can be factored into one’s thinking when determining which hospital they would want to go to in case of an emergency, as the positive of a short wait time might be offset by inadequate care.
Again, even though the ER Wait Watcher isn’t of use if your appendix is erupting as you read this, it’s useful information to have so that you can plan ahead in case you ever need to make a trip to the ER.