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Study shows increased health risks for patients visiting crowded ERs

The quality of healthcare in America has been put into question for several years. Coupled with decreased quality, the U.S., unfortunately, is not even ranked in the top 5 best countries in the world for excellent healthcare.

And recent data seemingly confirms this theory-particularly for emergency rooms. According to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, a highly respected journal by the American College of Emergency Physicians, patients visiting emergency packed emergency rooms were more likely to have further health complications than patients visiting less busy ERs.

Annals of Emergency Medicine study

The study looked at individuals in the state of California who visited emergency rooms in 2007. The results reveal that patients who visited crowded ERs (compared to patients visiting not-so-busy ERs) had a 5 percent higher chance of dying after being admitted to the hospital!

The results also concluded that those visiting saturated ERs stayed in the hospital longer after being admitted and-logically-incurred higher medical bills.

Potential causes

One potential reason could be to blame. Benjamin Sun, lead researcher, says that delay in treatment could be a big reason for the increased risk in health problems to patients visiting crowded emergency rooms. Long waits to get treatment cause conditions to get worse if not treated right away.

And, unfortunately, the problem is likely to persist. According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control, emergency room wait times increased 25 percent from 2003 to 2009.

Further, busy doctors might be another factor. Doctors who are busy or working long hours are likely to make mistakes and may find it difficult to keep up with high patient demands. This, sadly, increases the risk of medical errors or missed diagnosis.

Quality of U.S. healthcare continues to decline

Unfortunately, it’s not just emergency room quality of care that has been put into question-the quality of U.S. healthcare overall has been declining. According to a 2010 study conducted by The Commonwealth Fund-a foundation aimed at providing high performance healthcare-the U.S. ranked last in healthcare quality when compared to several other developed countries that included Britain, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

Another Commonwealth Fund study reported last May entitled: Explaining High Health Care Spending in the United States: An International Comparison of Supply, Utilization, Prices and Quality confirms this previous study that indicates Americans aren’t receiving the best care when compared to other countries, But, more alarmingly, the study shows that American’s pay much more in health care costs than other industrialized countries.

One would be inclined to believe that increased costs would lead to better service. But this seems to be the opposite when it comes to health care for Americans.

Unfortunately, it’s likely that this statistic is accurate and will continue to be true. The U.S. has witnesses skyrocketing health care costs for the past several years. As a result, many hospitals and other health care settings have attempted to cut costs to offset high medical bills to patients which have resulted in mistakes and medical errors.

Hopefully, additional studies and public awareness on the issue will lead to improved care to patients in the near future.

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