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Longer wait times hurting ED patients

More patient visits and fewer emergency departments have resulted in longer ED wait times, according to a report published online by the journal HealthAffairs. The report, Waits To See an Emergency Department Physician: U.S. Trends and Predictors, 1997–2004, is based on a review of more than 92,000 emergency department visits.

One of the most alarming findings of the researchers from Harvard Medical School is the increase in treatment delays for heart patients. Heart attack patients were waiting 2.5 times longer in 2004 than in 1997, from 8 to 20 minutes. Overall, patients who were designated by a triage nurse as needing immediate attention waited 40 percent longer — from an average of 10 minutes in 1997 to an average 14 minutes in 2004. “Given the benefits of rapid treatment of heart attacks, sepsis, stroke, pneumonia, and trauma, longer wait times could diminish the quality of care in EDs,” says the report.

"Emergency physicians have said for years that crowding and long wait times are hurting our patients — insured and uninsured equally," comments Dr. Linda Lawrence, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians in an article released by Reuters International. "Ever-lengthening waits are a frightening trend because any delays in care can make the difference between life and death for some patients. The number of emergency patients is increasing while the number of hospital beds continues to drop. It is a recipe for disaster."

PEPID President John Wagner says the findings, while alarming, are not surprising. “The report confirms our company’s mission to help emergency physicians and other caregivers by making the decision support process as fast as possible. Consulting PEPID ED means finding answers more quickly during an emergency, seeing more patients, and providing better informed care,” says Wagner. “Fast access to decision support at point-of-care is critical because it improves workflow for Emergency Departments and saves precious time
for everybody.”

Created by emergency physicians for the emergency department, PEPID ED provides instant access to detailed information on trauma, toxicology, procedures, CBRNE, ACLS, psychiatric and pediatric conditions. It is also a complete drug database with a drug interactions generator, an interactive IV drug compatibility tool, and medical calculators fully-integrated into medical content.

The researchers found that ED visits increased up to 26 percent between 1994 and 2004. The number of EDs in the U.S. decreased up to 12 percent, during the same period. The result was a 78 percent increase in the number of visits per emergency department between 1995 and 2003. The report, authored by Wilper et al, is available online at Health Affairs.


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