1 in 10 EDs Boarding Psych Patients for 'One Week or More'

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , December 16, 2010

Schneider says she recently heard of a psychiatric patient who, while boarded in a hospital emergency room waiting for a transfer, "drank hand sanitizer that was on the wall."

Ideally, hospital emergency rooms would have appropriately staffed holding areas for psychiatric patients, or could transfer them to special psychiatric facilities, says Schneider, an emergency physician at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY.

Among the survey's other findings:

  • Two thirds of ED administrators responding to the survey believe health reform will cause patient volume in their EDs to increase, not decrease, because more newly insured patients will be unable to access primary care and specialty services.  About 17% said they thought it would remain the same, and 5% said they thought it would decrease.
  • Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons were said to be the specialists in shortest supply for emergency department call, followed by neurologists, cardiologists, general surgeons, otolaryngologists and cardiovascular surgeons.
  • While 73% of ED administrators responding to the survey said their hospital had invested in electronic medical records in the ED, 56% said that to date, the investment has not been worth the cost. However, 76% said that eventually, the investment would justify the cost.

Of the 603 ED administrators who responded to this survey, 36% said their hospitals had fewer than 51 beds and 28% said they had 201 beds or greater. Responses came from 47 states, but the largest percentage of respondents, 11%, came from Texas.

Of those responding, 59% said between 11% and 30% of their hospital's ED patients are uninsured.

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