When you are injured or your health is in jeopardy, going to your local hospital emergency room is often the best option for getting the care you need. These facilities offer around-the-clock access to medical providers with a variety of diagnostic tools and treatments at their disposal.
Although these facilities may all appear to offer the same level of care to patients, all emergency rooms are not created equal. Going to the wrong one could prevent you from getting the potentially life-saving help you need.
3 Factors That Could Affect Your Quality of Care at an ER
As increasing numbers of patients look to hold emergency room doctors and facilities responsible for the lack of care they received, emergency room malpractice cases are becoming more common. Before you or someone you care about visits an Indiana emergency room, it is important to be aware of the factors that could have a significant impact on your health.
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), a tremendous increase in the number of patients seen in emergency rooms combined with a shortage of qualified medical personnel have resulted in an overall lower quality of care in ERs. Three of the factors that could impact the treatment you receive are:
Hospitals Understaffed in the ER
Hospital staffing plays a major role in the quality of healthcare you receive in your local ER. To combat the understaffing problem, many hospitals rely on the use of doctors known as locum tenens, a term that describes someone who fills in for someone else.
- Becker’s Hospital Review, a leading resource for the medical community, states that as many as 75 percent of hospitals throughout the country rely on locum tenens to address understaffed areas and fill in for doctors who are on leave.
- Although locum tenens are trained medical providers, they are only meant to be used on a temporary basis, and not as a permanent means of care.
- In ER settings, locum tenens may lack board certification as an emergency room physician, while also lacking the experience necessary to provide the type of emergency diagnostic and treatment strategies patients require.
Hospital ER Trauma Level
Indiana emergency rooms and hospitals throughout the country are each assigned with a certain trauma level, which designates the types of resources they have available to treat different injuries and conditions. According to the American Trauma Society, trauma designation and verification is conducted on a state and local level, but generally follows these guidelines:
Many hospitals advertise themselves as being particularly well equipped and adept at dealing with specific conditions. Rural hospitals will often pair with larger suburban hospitals to gain credibility and offer more specialized services.
Examples Indiana Hospital ER Specialties:
- For stroke care, services, and treatment, St. Vincent Hospital prides itself in its stroke telemedicine services, which allow it to connect to neurologists at other hospitals to verify time-sensitive symptoms in stroke treatment. Many stroke centers in suburban and rural areas team with larger hospitals to provide 24-hour neurological consultations.
- For pediatric injuries, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health bills itself as having the only Level 1 trauma center in the state for dealing specifically with children.
- For potential issues with chest pain and cardiovascular health, local suburban hospitals may coordinate with larger hospitals to provide more specialized care. The Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care may designate these hospitals as “chest pain centers.”
When choosing a hospital or emergency room for treatment, you may want to consider the type of health issues or concerns for which you are currently receiving treatment, and choose the hospital known for specializing in these types of conditions.
What Can Go Wrong in the ER?
According to statistics from the Leapfrog Group, the leading nonprofit agency known for developing the Hospital Safety Score, hospital mistakes and errors are the third-leading cause of death in this country, killing as many as 440,000 people each year. Things that can go wrong in the ER or during your hospital stay include:
- Medical diagnostic errors that result in dangerous delays in treatment, such as failure to diagnose a heart attack, a stroke, or other emergency medical condition
- Surgical errors, such as performing a procedure on the wrong patient or operating on the wrong body part
- Slip and fall injuries, as the result of dangerous conditions, such as wet floors and lack of handrails in patient bathrooms
In addition to the above, lengthy wait times in emergency rooms can result in worsening conditions, leading to increased hospitalization, the need for more extensive treatments, and even death. Victims who suffer injuries from any of the above types of adverse events should contact an experienced Indiana emergency room malpractice lawyer.