Why Are Emergency Rooms So Often Overcrowded?

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When you or a loved one experiences an injury or medical problem that requires urgent medical care, your first impulse may be to rush to the nearest emergency room instead of waiting for a doctors appointment or visiting a medical walk in clinic. But while this action may be the best case for your specific situation, you’ll likely notice something when you arrive at the hospital: the waiting room will probably be filled with other people seeking emergency room care for a variety of conditions. For several years, overcrowding has been a serious problem for hospitals across the United States. Because of this, many doctors are beginning to open urgent care centers and other medical clinics to relieve pressure and expand options for people with non-critical problems. But how did this problem start? And how can it be solved?

Surprisingly, emergency room care is still relatively new: doctors only began advocating for emergency medical services in 1961 in response to a high number of serious injuries and problems; the specialty wasn’t officially recognized until 1972. Once established, however, emergency room care quickly became popular, reaching 130 million total visits in 2010. Unfortunately, with that increased popularity came longer waiting times and other problems, as 50% of ERs reported operating at or above capacity that same year.

The consequences of this fact go beyond simple inconvenience: overcrowding means that the quality of available medical care is compromised, health care costs will rise, and patient and community trust will likely decrease as a result of both. Even worse, a patient with a severe medical condition can have as much as a 5% increased chance of dying before being discharged if the ER is overcrowded. Moreover, if a high number of patients cannot afford to compensate the hospital for their care, the hospital may be forced to close.

The best way to reduce ER overcrowding is to reduce a community’s dependence on their local hospitals: experts typically recommend investing in primary care measures and visiting urgent care clinics in the event that the medical problem is not serious. However, unless there is a significant change in the near future, life-threatening injuries and conditions will likely leave you at the mercy of an overcrowded, compromised emergency room. Find out more at this site.

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