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Emergency Departments Improve Safety, Efficiency

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A number of U.S. hospitals have begun to use new practices to address overcrowding and delays in emergency departments, USA Today reports.

According to USA Today, hospitals have "plenty of incentive" to make their EDs "more inviting," as EDs have "essentially become the front door to most hospitals." About half of hospital admissions come from EDs today, compared with 36% in 1996, and ED patients on average must wait about one hour before they see a physician, an increase of 38 minutes from 1998, according to CDC.

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In response, some hospitals have begun to establish "fast-track" areas, in which physician assistants or nurse practitioners treat ED patients with minor injuries and illnesses. The practice allows hospitals to treat and discharge such patients in less than 90 minutes and allows physicians to focus on patients with more serious injuries and illnesses. In addition, some hospitals also have begun to use computerized systems that allow physicians to order diagnostic tests electronically, which can reduce delays. USA Today examined other practices that hospitals have begun to use to improve efficiency and maintain safety in their EDs.

Neal Chawla, an emergency physician at Inova Fairfax Hospital and a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, said, "We should be doing a better job overall," adding, "Everyone's heard the stories of people dying in waiting rooms, and we may hear more of those stories unless things do get fixed" (Galewitz, USA Today, 12/15).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.