One of the great things about an eight-year study of emergency departments published last month in the Annals of Emergency Medicine is that it challenges some preconceived notions about the problems in EDs these days.
The National Trends in Emergency Department Occupancy report covers from 2001 to 2008, and yes, we know how some of the story goes, with the power of hindsight over the past four years. During those study years, patient visits increased 60% faster than population growth, according to the report.
Ouch. Major overcrowding. Aggravating throughput issues.
Those problems are expected to intensify since the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the healthcare reform law, guaranteeing that more uninsured will be brought into the system, as far as emergency physicians see it.
And while the court has left it up to the states whether to expand Medicaid coverage, any increase in "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," David Seaberg, MD, CPE, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said in a statement this week.
"While there are provisions in the law to benefit emergency patients, it is clear that emergency visits will increase as we have already seen nationwide,"Seaberg added.