Lack of Inpatient Beds Cause of Emergency Room Waits

Study finds many critical patients wait twice as long as they should
By Jane Parry
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Failure to process patients from the emergency department to inpatient beds is at the root of the gridlock, rather than patients with non-urgent conditions, according to a 2009 report by Press Ganey Associates Inc.

The Emergency Department Pulse Report 2009 found that over half of all hospital admissions in the United States are now made through emergency departments, and that lack of swift transfer to more appropriate sites of care causes a variety of problems for emergency departments, including long wait times, boarding patients in hallways, and variable quality of care and outcomes.

The average wait time declined by just two minutes in 2008, to four hours and three minutes, the report states; but it also notes that patient satisfaction continued to rise last year, for the fifth year running. However, the average 37-minute wait time for critical patients, who should be seen in one to 14 minutes, is particularly troubling, according to Nick Jouriles, M.D., president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

"Wait times are still a significant problem for many emergency departments," Jouriles said in a statement. "Despite overcrowding and the problems facing emergency patients, the public needs and continues to seek emergency care and continues to be satisfied with the care they get. Emergency departments are now and will always be the health care safety net for everyone."

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