Four years ago, the average wait time at emergency rooms in New Jersey was 30 minutes.

The most recent data available (between April 2017 and April of 2018) shows last the average ER wait time last year was about 25 1/2 minutes, according to the nonprofit news organization ProPublica, which uses data tracked by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Kerry McKean Kelly, the vice president of communications and member services for the New Jersey Hospital Association, said emergency room visits in the Garden State have remained fairly steady over the past five years, hovering around 3.1 to 3.2 million annually.

“The decline in wait times isn’t so much about reduced volume; it’s about hospitals providing care in the emergency room more effectively and more efficiently," she said.

She noted many ERs in New Jersey have undertaken redesigns, “perhaps creating a fast-track area where less serious cases are diverted, or a specialized section where you specifically take care of geriatric or pediatric cases.”

She noted another way hospital emergency rooms are improving service is by the use of telemedicine, where a doctor and patient will communicate via video.

“Some hospitals use it for faster triage, that process by which that hospital staff will quickly assess a patient to determine who needs to be seen first," she said.

She pointed out other hospitals are using telemedicine to "perhaps do a remote consult with a specialist who is not physically present in their emergency department.”

She said another tool that is helping hospitals is the application of “patient through-put science” to the work flow in hospitals, looking at "ebbs and flows of patient volume.”

“By looking at those issues you can identify solutions, try to find a way to smooth the workflow and that makes it possible to reduce wait time for patients.”

A growing number of urgent care and minute clinics may also be easing the number of ER visits.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM