Are Patients With Longer Emergency Department Wait Times Less Likely to Consent to Research?

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Abstract

Objectives:

There are unique challenges to enrolling patients in emergency department (ED) clinical research studies, including the time-sensitive nature of emergency conditions, the acute care environment, and the lack of an established relationship with patients. Prolonged ED wait times have been associated with a variety of adverse effects on patient care. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of ED wait times on patient participation in ED clinical research. The hypothesis was that increased ED wait times would be associated with reduced ED clinical research consent rates.

Methods:

This was a retrospective cohort study of all patients eligible for two diagnostic clinical research studies from January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2008, in an urban academic ED. Sex, age, race, study eligibility, and research consent decisions were recorded by trained study personnel. The wait times to registration and to be seen by a physician were obtained from administrative databases and compared between consenters and nonconsenters. An analysis of association between patient wait times for the outcome of consent to participate was performed using a multivariate logistic regression model.

Results:

A total of 903 patients were eligible for enrollment and were asked for consent. Overall, 589 eligible patients (65%) gave consent to research participation. The consent rates did not change when patients were stratified by the highest and lowest quartile wait times for both time from arrival to registration (68% vs. 65%, p = 0.35) and time to be seen by a physician (65% vs. 66%, p = 0.58). After adjusting for patient demographics (age, race, and sex) and study, there was still no relationship between wait times and consent (p > 0.4 for both wait times). Furthermore, median time from arrival to registration did not differ between those who consented to participate (15 minutes; interquartile range [IQR] = 9 to 36 minutes) versus those who did not (15.5 minutes; IQR = 10 to 39 minutes; p = 0.80; odds ratio [OR] = 1.00, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.99 to 1.01). Similarly, there was no difference in the median time to be seen by a physician between those who consented (25 minutes; IQR = 15 to 55 minutes) versus those who did not (25 minutes; IQR = 15 to 56 minutes; p = 0.70; OR = 1.00, 95% CI = 0.99 to 1.01).

Conclusions:

Regardless of wait times, nearly two-thirds of eligible patients were willing to consent to diagnostic research studies in the ED. These findings suggest that effective enrollment in clinical research is possible in the ED, despite challenges with prolonged wait times.

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