fbpx

Tired Of The Long Wait At ED? How To Be Seen Faster

Woman waiting at ED
Whether it’s for ourselves or our kids, when we’re headed to the emergency department (ED), most of us have already prepared ourselves for the reality that is hours of waiting ahead of us. As we wait to be seen, triaged, consult a doctor, get tests done, discuss the results and get started on the treatment, many of us will easily spend up to 6 hours in A&E – if not more. 

Unfortunately, long waiting times can mean consequences for not just our health, but our wellbeing too. Here’s a look into why our ED waiting times are so long, what the implications could be for our health, and how we can be seen faster. 

Why Are Our Accident And Emergency Waiting Times So Long – And How Long Are They?

Long ED waiting times have been an issue for decades. Back in 2009, New Zealand set a health target for lower ED waiting times: to have 95% of patients presenting to the emergency department either admitted or discharged within six hours. 

Looking at our 2021 figures, some district health boards (DHBs) are significantly failing to meet this target, with one DHB leaving 35% of their patients waiting over six hours to be either admitted or sent home. Up to three DHBs successfully meet the target every quarter, and the other 16-17 DHBs still fall short, with 15%-25% of their patients waiting over six hours for the next step in their care. Even for the majority that get seen within the target period – that’s still up to a 6 hour wait, and may be met with significant pain, discomfort or concern over the health of a loved one.

The reasons behind the long waiting times are multifaceted and include: 

  • The volume of people – there are close to one million ED visits in NZ every year, and only a limited number of the right, highly trained ED medical staff working at one time. If you need to consult a specialist as part of your assessment, like an obstetrician, this can take even longer depending on how many other patients they are currently treating.
  • Queues for diagnostic equipment – a hospital has a limited number of diagnostic tools like x-rays, CT scans and MRI’s. This equipment may be shared with many other branches of the hospital for their in-those that are admitted too, so queues can form and cause longer waiting times. The same may apply for other test results, and can also be impacted by the number of staff (like radiographers) working at the time of day you come in.
  • The urgency of your medical needs – the hospital does not work on a first-come-first-serve basis. When you come in and first speak to the ED nurse, they are trained to look for signs and symptoms that gives an idea of how time-sensitive your condition is, and whether you’ll be safe to wait, like with an uncomplicated broken arm, or whether your health may deteriorate very quickly if you don’t get seen immediately, like if you’re having trouble breathing. Coming in at the same time as those that have urgent medical needs may mean you have to wait for longer. 

The Impact Of Waiting Times On Our Health And Wellbeing

When emergency care is delayed, depending on the condition and symptoms, there can be serious health consequences. Research from Canada that looked at long waiting times as a result of overcrowded EDs showed that there was an increase in the risk of death and hospital readmission for those that were discharged. Other reports back these findings, showing an increased risk of the health of patients significantly deteriorating due to not getting the right treatment in time and an increased risk of adverse events. This may be connected to increased stress on staff, poorer adherence to protocols and clinical errors when there is overcrowding.

The potential for patients’ frustration, anxiety and stress to grow with the hours is also a concern, with those that wait long hours into the night having further potential impacts on their sleep and energy levels, concentration, mental clarity and work performance the following day.

How To Be Seen Faster

With public emergency departments feeling like a roll of the dice in terms of how long the wait will be, there is one clear way to be seen faster: opt for private accident and emergency facilities. Private hospitals have reduced times in both waiting in the hospital for ED, and waiting for additional outpatient care that may be required upon discharge, with private patients recounting largely positive stories of their hospital experience. 

While private EDs can be accessed by anyone, a common reason for not choosing this option is the cost. Private EDs often charge a flat fee which can be around one hundred dollars, and this price can vary depending on the time of day you come in or the additional tests and care you need. Paying these private costs can be difficult, especially as they are unforeseen and therefore unplanned for.

Now, the cost barrier to private emergency care has been reduced with the world’s first Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) platform that is entirely focused on health & medicine: HealthNow. HealthNow lets you divide your private hospital, paying only a fraction of the cost on the day, and then paying it off in up to six weeks with absolutely no fees or interest. 

Unlike other BNPL services, HealthNow meets a higher level of regulatory compliance to ensure that it operates with social responsibility. It is accessed via an app on your smartphone, that’s presented at the time you pay your bill. The hospital gets paid in full on the day by HealthNow, while you only pay a fraction of the cost on the day of your visit. 

HealthNow also has a specifically-designed health wallet to put away money safely to cover the costs of any medical or health-related appointments, services and products. You choose the amount and frequency that you’d like to contribute – and others can also contribute to your health wallet, from family members who want to help you look after your health, to employers as part of employee wellness programs. Once the money is in your wallet, it’s yours in full to spend any time on any health-related cost with HealthNow, and can be used for yourself or any other family member or loved one.

Don’t Put Your Health On Hold Again

Get the care you need, when you need it. Start by registering for HealthNow – it is free and easy. To start using HealthNow, sign up on the app. You can also check out HealthNow’s full benefits and features, and see how it can make a big change in your family’s health.