A Way Forward

March 13, 2023

The average wait time in a Maryland hospital emergency department—roughly 3.5 hours by one measure—has been in the spotlight, both in Annapolis and in the media. 

For a state considered a national leader in EMS and trauma care, our ED wait times have consistently been among the longest in the nation. Some of the causes are known, and some we are still uncovering. 

We recognize while there are significant external issues out of hospitals’ control—behavioral health crisis, limited primary care, health disparities in communities—there are opportunities for hospitals and health systems to make progress. 

This leadership opportunity was discussed in MHA’s Executive Committee meeting on Tuesday. Committee members directed staff to convene hospital emergency department leaders and others to share best practices and identify opportunities to think about the issue differently and address it as a field. 

Legislation being considered in the General Assembly also would establish a task force to reduce ED wait times. MHA, on your behalf, is engaged in amending the bill to ensure it has the appropriate representation and scope.  

This would not be the first attempt to get a handle on the issue. Over the years, multiple groups have studied Maryland’s ED wait times and overcrowding. Other state agencies are in this space as well: 

  • The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems reconstituted the Collaborative on Hospital Emergency Services, bringing hospitals together to share best practices to improve ambulance offload times. 
  • The Health Services Cost Review Commission is working on policy options related to ED wait times. 

The field will be better positioned to respond to these policy efforts through collective action and performance improvement.  

While we can’t fully explain why Maryland is an outlier in this area, we know we can improve and look forward to making progress, together. 

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