Serious and even life threatening mistakes can be made by emergency room physicians when they lack the resources and support necessary to treat patients effectively. Issues like ER overcrowding have posed serious dangers to patients throughout the state of New York and the entire country for years, and now there is evidence that the situation is only deteriorating further. Given that major errors and medical malpractice incidents thrive under such stressed conditions, the failing emergency care system must raise concerns for patients’ health and well-being.
States across the country were recently graded on over 130 factors that contribute to emergency care services. The study, which was conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians, found that the majority of states scored below average and that the country actually received an overall grade of D+. Interestingly, factors like the amount of medical malpractice liability coverage offered to physicians played a role in the quality of emergency care services offered in various states. The level of reimbursement states offered to doctors for Medicaid patients also affected ER overcrowding rates.
Overcrowding and pharmacy errors are identified as major issues in emergency rooms across the nation, and are due to several factors. The number of patients being treated in the ER has increased by more than 30 percent in a 15-year period, and emergency department wait times are also on the rise. A significant part of the problem may be that ER doctors are now taking on some of the cases that were once be handled by primary care physicians in an outpatient setting. Furthermore, patients are being referred to emergency departments for diagnostic tests and other forms of care at increasing rates.
Straining and already stressed system could have disastrous effects on patient care and safety.
Source: philly.com, “Report finds ERs in crisis: Pa. Better than most, N.J. worse,” Don Sapatkin, Jan. 18, 2014