Objectives: EM physicians may be biased in seeing patients presenting with nonspecific complaints or requiring more extensive work-ups. The goal of our study was to ascertain if chief complaint affected time to be seen (TTBS) in the ED. Methods: A retrospective report was generated from the EMR for all moderate acuity patients who visited the ED from January 2005 to December 2010 at a large urban teaching hospital. Abdominal pain, alcohol intoxication, back pain, chest pain, cough, dyspnea, dizziness, fall, fever, flank pain, headache, infection, pain (nonspecific), psychiatric evaluation, “sent by MD”, vaginal bleeding, vomiting, and weakness were the most common complaints. Non-Parametric Independent Sample Tests assessed median TTBS between complaints, gender, and age. Chisquare testing assessed for differences in the distribution of arrival times. Results: We obtained data from 116,194 patients. Patients presenting with weakness and dizziness waited the longest time of 35 minutes and patients with flank pain waited the shortest with 24 minutes. Males waited 30 minutes and females waited 32 minutes. Younger females between the ages of 18 - 50 waited significantly longer when presenting with a chief complaint of abdominal pain, chest pain, or flank pain. There was no difference in the distribution of arrival times for these complaints. Conclusion: There is a significant bias toward seeing young male patients more quickly than women or older males. Patients might benefit from efforts to educate EM physicians on the delays and potential quality issues associated with this bias in an attempt to move toward more egalitarian patient selection.
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