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About 3% of patients leave emergency departments (EDs) without being seen, according to a federal data set that was summarized in Becker’s Hospital Review. State information analyzed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) demonstrates the variability in wait times in the ED before patients leave. Patients in North Dakota walk out after a median wait time of 108 minutes—the shortest time span. By comparison, patients in Washington, D.C., wait a median of 329 minutes, or nearly 5 and a half hours before walking out—the longest time span. CMS collected the information between October 2021 and September 2022. 

Where do they go? CMS didn’t specify—and likely didn’t have a reliable method to collect—the actions the patients took after walking out of the ED. Did they go to urgent care? Common sense says at least some of them did, probably after searching for urgent care on their smartphones and realizing it would be a better choice.

Some Patients Wait 5.5 Hours in the ED Before Giving Up
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