ER Wait Times Rise Since 1997
January 18, 2008 -- A recent study shows that emergency room patients were waiting longer for care in 2004 than they were in 1997. Wait times among those with serious conditions, such as heart attacks, have risen even more sharply, and women and minorities continue to wait longer for care than white men.
During the period studied, the number of emergency rooms fell nationwide and patient visits rose dramatically. Patients who were admitted to the hospital sometimes had to be held in the emergency room for over 10 hours before a normal hospital bed was available, which also contributed to a shortage of emergency room beds.
Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century identifies six aims for improvement in today's health care system. One of them is that health care should be timely, reducing waits and sometimes harmful delays for those who receive care.
A series of three reports from the Institute of Medicine on the future of emergency care in the United States says that hospital emergency departments and emergency medical services are increasingly being asked to do more with fewer resources and facilities. Congress should allocate significant funds to ensure that America's emergency departments, trauma centers, and medical first responders are fully equipped and ready to provide prompt and appropriate care. In addition, Rewarding Provider Performance: Aligning Incentives in Medicare found that financial incentives may result in faster improvements in care. This was exemplified by a program in the United Kingdom where practitioners were rewarded for providing secondary care and pharmaceuticals to their patients that ultimately reduced patient waiting times.
The Future of Emergency Care