Why emergency departments are full and what can be done about it

Connected coverage - selected articles on trends, challenges and controversies in the changing world of medicine

Posted Aug. 6, 2012

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Connected Coverage

Selected articles on trends, challenges and controversies in the changing world of medicine.
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Increases in emergency department visits have prompted doctors and hospital officials to examine more closely the causes of ED overcrowding. There are no easy solutions, but some hospitals have launched initiatives designed to better handle the growing number of ED visitors, including those who seek care at the emergency department frequently.

American Medical News has covered the overcrowding issue and looked into how emergency physicians are trying to provide quality care while addressing overuse of their departments by so-called “frequent fliers.” Articles also have covered research about which people are most likely to visit the ED and why they go there.

Report dispels conventional wisdom on what drives Medicaid ED use

Nonelderly Medicaid patients are more likely than others to visit the emergency department, but they typically seek care for urgent or more serious medical conditions. A study released in July said the findings highlight the need for better access to primary care and specialty care. Some states are considering approaches to address high ED use by Medicaid enrollees, such as encouraging health professionals to improve chronic disease management. Read more

Rise in ED crowding tied to sicker patients needing more tests

In addition to the rising numbers of people going to the ED, the severity of these patients' health problems is increasing. From 2001 to 2008, the number of high-acuity patients grew by 23%, with these patients spending 41% more time in the ED. During that same period, diagnostic tests and other medical interventions in emergency departments increased. Read more

Innovative ways to slash ED overuse

Hospitals have been exploring different ways to reduce return visits from people who visit the ED frequently. A health system in Michigan cut ED use dramatically through a program that involved case management interventions and transitioning care to primary care physicians. This and other similar initiatives help improve patients' lives and control health care spending. Read more

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