To determine if an informational videotape affected patient's attitudes towards their emergency department visit, we conducted a prospective study using a convenience sample of patients waiting to be seen at a southern California emergency department. Patients waiting to be treated were randomized to view an informational videotape or to receive standard management (no videotape). The informational videotape lasted 6 minutes and served to orient the patients to the emergency department. It showed the sequence of steps from entry into the department to discharge, the nature of triage and causes for delays, the different services offered by the emergency department, and the roles of each of the department staff members. One week after discharge, patients were contacted at home by telephone and were asked to rate various aspects of their emergency department experience. A comparison of the telephone survey rankings between those who viewed the videotape (98 patients) and those who did not (100 patients) revealed statistically significant improvements in the former group on questions about level of anxiety and appropriateness of delays. An informational videotape for patients in waiting areas may be a useful tool to educate about emergency medical services, to reduce anxiety, and to improve satisfaction with the emergency department stay.