ER Clogging Not Due to Non-Emergency Cases
The American College of Emergency Physicians says a new report from CDC "once again debunks the myth that emergency departments are crowded with non-urgent patients."
America's emergency departments are crowded, but it is a myth that non-emergency cases are responsible for the crowding, the American College of Emergency Physicians stressed after CDC issued a report showing the percentage of non-urgent patients dropped to 7.9 percent in 2007 from 12.1 percent in 2006. Dr. Angela Gardner, president of ACEP, said the report also makes the excellent point that non-urgent does not imply unnecessary. As we have said repeatedly, our patients are in the ER because that’s where they need to be."
The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2007 Emergency Department Summary from CDC found about 222 visits were made to U.S. emergency departments every minute in 2007, which represents a 23 percent increase from the level of visits in 1997. ACEP said HHS has indicated this will be the final fully detailed report of its kind to be issued about ED visits, but Gardner said the health agency should reconsider. "It is essential to know what is happening in our emergency departments as we implement health care reform. This report is rich in data about who our patients are, how old they are, and why they are seeking care in the ER. From a planning perspective, this information is invaluable. It would be a mistake for the CDC to discontinue tracking what is happening on the front lines of health care, the nation's emergency departments."
About one-quarter of all ED visits were by patients insured by Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. About 15 percent of all visits were by uninsured patients.
Most doctors' offices are open for around 45 hours a week, as opposed to the 168 hours a week emergency departments are open," said Gardner. "That nearly two-thirds of emergency patients came to the ER between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. during the week or on weekends highlights the unpredictable nature of health emergencies. When you are the one who has a sick child, the last thing you want is a 'closed' sign or after-hours message.
"We do an excellent job of stabilizing and treating our patients, but the persistent problems of overcrowding, ambulance diversion, and boarding admitted patients in the ER are not going away," she said. "We know from the Massachusetts experience that visits will continue to rise with health care reform. We also know that as Baby Boomers age, a tsunami of patients in need of emergency care is just around the corner. We need help, and we need it now."