The number of people using emergency rooms is growing, yet such care is increasingly difficult to access, according to a recent report by the American College of Emergency Physicians. The doctors’ organization says the emergency care environment is getting worse nationwide.
In a report card that assessed factors affecting emergency care, the group gave the nation a D+. It also gave Indiana a D+, ranking it 40th among the states.
Safety Categories Emergency Rooms Are Ranked By
The report card assessed the emergency medical system in multiple categories, giving Indiana a grade in each one.
- Access to Emergency Care
- Quality and Patient Safety
- Public Health and Injury Prevention
- Disaster Preparedness
The number of emergency rooms has increased slightly since 2009, the last time the ACEP issued its grades. But demand for emergency care has increased and will continue to rise as the baby boomer generation ages and more people receive insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, the group said.
The American College of Emergency Physicians gave Indiana a D+ for access to emergency care. Several factors contributed to this grade, including long wait times, shortage of healthcare workers and lack of specialists. Long waits for emergency treatment mean there are too few emergency room doctors for the number of patients. When emergency room doctors and nurses are stretched too thin, it can cause a delayed diagnosis or missed diagnosis.
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How Indiana Measures in Emergency Room Care
The American College of Emergency Physicians gave Indiana a D+ for access to emergency care; a D for quality and patient safety; a D for public health and injury prevention; and an F for disaster preparedness.
The report said Indiana needs improvement in some areas that other states have already tackled. For instance, it noted that Indiana is one of the few states that have not developed a stroke or an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI ) system of care. Similarly, there is no destination policy in place for patients who arrive in emergency rooms with a stroke or STEMI.
Indiana’s score also was affected by a high infant mortality rate (7.6 per 1,000 live births), low percentage of child immunization compliance (73.4%), and racial disparity in infant mortality rates, with black infants being 2.8 times more likely to die during their first year than white infants.
The emergency physicians group said Indiana needs to address the severe shortage of medical specialists so that patients don’t have to wait long periods for specialized care. It also said the state’s emergency departments need to adopt emergency preparedness programs for disaster planning.
The report card is a valuable snapshot for assessing the adequacy of emergency care in Indiana as well as the nation as whole. When emergency rooms lack staff and support, patients may suffer. Medical mistakes and misdiagnoses are more common when staff is stressed and stretched thin. Our state needs to do better for the sake of our collective health.
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