Are hospital ER wait times accurate?

How to get seen when you need a doctor right away

Jordan Bellar rushed her 9-year-old son, Devon, to Health Central's Emergency Room for an elevated heart rate.

[WEB EXTRA: ER Wait Times | When to use urgent care vs Emergency Room | When to use CVS Minute Clinics | Scroll below to see statements from Florida Hospital, Orlando Health ]

"They said it would be a four- to five-hour wait, and it was very crowded in the waiting room," Bellar said.

We've all been there, patiently waiting to be seen at a hospital ER. You may have even seen hospital billboards posting ER wait times.

Erin Segerstrom said she's spotted a few.

"I see them on 75 and 4 and they're like four minutes, six minutes, and I'm like, 'Wow," she said.

Now patients can look up ER wait times for almost any hospital online so that, according to the hospitals, you know what to expect before you go.

The problem is, News 6 found those wait times were way off.

News 6 checked Dr. Phillips Hospital; the website said a 38-minute wait, but News 6 called the ER and was told it was actually a three-hour wait.

Southlake Hospital website said a 37-minute wait, but again, the ER told News 6 the wait was two hours.

Christy Mares said, "It does kind of feel like false advertising."

"If you're going thinking you're getting in much faster and you don't, then I can see how people would be upset," Patty Moskal said.

Orlando Regional Medical Center's website said it was a 51-minute wait. News 6 called the ER. Employees would not give a time but did say there were 26 patients in the waiting room.

News 6 also checked Florida Hospital Winter Park:

  • Website: 60 minutes
  • The ER said: three-hour wait time

Florida Hospital Kissimmee:

  • Website: 45 minutes
  • The ER said: two hours and 45 minutes wait time

"Why even have it if it's not going to be even within 20 minutes? (It) would be OK when you're talking hours, that just makes the public more angry," Brenda Allen said.

Florida Hospital Apopka: 

  • Website: 60-plus minutes
  • The ER said: four-hour wait time

Dave Allen said, "That would be annoying."

News 6 contacted the hospital networks to find out why ER wait times posted on their websites don't match the wait times we were given.

Florida Hospital told News 6, "During a medical emergency, patients should always call 911. The Emergency Room wait times posted online are intended to be a tool for consumers, but it is not guarantee. As our website states, the wait time represents a rolling-average of the previous 60 minutes for all patients. While everyone's health is paramount, certain patients will be seen faster than others due to the severity of their emergency. For example, a patient experiencing a heart attack will be treated before a patient with a sprained ankle. We also cannot predict future emergencies or the nature of patient visits."

Orlando Health said in a statement: "The blanket assumption that there is a significant difference in emergency room wait times posted on our website and actual wait times is inaccurate. The number of emergency room patients and the severity of their conditions can vary widely from minute to minute. As required and expected, patients suffering from life or limb threatening conditions are given priority. Recent emergency room expansions at ORMC, Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, South Seminole Hospital, South Lake Hospital and, opening in 2016 at Health Central Hospital, greatly enhance wait times for patients with non-life threatening conditions. We encourage all individuals in need of emergency care to call 911 or go to their nearest emergency room."

Let's be clear, in a true emergency, most people won't check ER wait times, they should go directly to the nearest hospital. But people News 6 spoke to said if hospitals are posting ER wait times, they should be more accurate.

"I'm big on accurate data anyway, so if you're going to put it up there, I think you should tell the people how long the wait is," Moskal said.

"That's not really a ballpark when you're putting three to five minutes up and you're calling and it's over 30 minutes, or over an hour -- that's false representation, in my opinion," Bellar said

As for Devon, he is feeling fine and hasn't skipped a beat.

Both urgent-care facilities and CVS MinuteClinics are options for patients who have non-life-threatening medical needs.

For more information, News 6 has posted videos to both Paramount Urgent care and CVS MinuteClinics on our Facebook page and listed the symptoms each of those facilities treats so you can figure out where to go to get help.