Patients in US hospitals who need emergency care the most are the least likely to receive it within the stipulated triage time, according to new research.

The study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine analysed almost 540 emergency department visits in US hospitals between 1997 and 2006 based on triage target time and the patient categories emergency, urgent, semi-urgent and non-urgent.

Research showed that almost 60% of emergency patients in US hospitals were seen by a physician within the stipulated 14 minutes in 1997 compared to 48% in 2006.

The percentage of urgent patients receiving emergency care on time was 84% in 1997, which decreased to 76% in 2006, and 91% of semi-urgent patients were seen on time in 1997, a figure that reduced to 85% in 2006, researchers said.