As the name implies, the purpose of hospital emergency rooms is to provide quick and expert medical treatment for urgent and life threatening medical problems. The truth of the matter is that patients seek the ER for a variety of illnesses and injuries. They can range from catastrophic to as minor as a young child running his/her first fever. The downfall to this is that those patients who are truly not suffering from life threatening situations are taking away from those that are.
Overcrowding results in longer waiting times to see a physician. Overcrowding also may contribute to decreased protection of a person’s privacy and confidentiality and impaired patient evaluation and treatment. According to an article written by Julie Rovner, she states that, “97% of ER doctors also said they treat patients daily who have private insurance and primary care doctors, but whose primary care doctors sent them to the emergency room for care due to the patient needing care when the doctor’s office was closed” (Rovner, 2011). Overcrowding has also been linked to more deaths in the emergency room than in the past. One reason is hospitals having to close their doors and rerouting ambulances to other hospitals because their ER is full. Nevertheless, there may be solutions to this ever growing problem.
Hospitals can take cost-saving measures to help alleviate the overcrowding issue. They can move stable and non-emergency care patients to less expensive settings such as an observation area or walk-in center staffed by nurses. Creating more after hours urgent care centers where patients can be seen for non-urgent or life or death situations. Providing appropriate clinic facilities and care for patients without insurance. Providing physicians with incentives for accepting Medicare and Medicaid new patients will also alleviate the overcrowding issue. Even though any of these measures could help with overcrowding, and with the Affordable Health Care Act being deemed constitutional, providers don’t see overcrowding in the ER slowing down.
Due to the constraints of the U.S. health care system, ER care for patientswith non-urgent conditions will continue and probably increase with the onset of the new health care reform. ACEP President David Seaberg said in a statement in July 2012 that, “Increasing the number of patients on Medicaid without an equivalent increase in the number of physicians willing to take that insurance will surely increase the flood of patients into our nation’s ERs. Coverage does not equal access” (Cheung-Larivee, 2012). In conclusion, a number of different solutions need to be considered and applied. Solving the ER problem is going to involve healthcare workers, business leaders, politicians and the public.
Cheung-Larivee, K. (2012, July 6). Health Reform Ruling won’t Solve Emergency Room Overcrowding. Retrieved September 15, 2013, from Fierce Health Care: http://www.fiercehealthcare.com/story/health-reform-ruling-wont-solve-emergency-room-overcrowding/2012-07-06 Rovner, J. (2011, April 28). ER Doctors Say Health Law Will Make ER Crowding Worse. Retrieved September 14, 2013, from Health News from NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/04/28/135800784/emergency-room-doctors-say-health-law-will-make-er-crowding-worse