AP released a story by Mike Stobbe this afternoon Average ER waiting time nears 1 hour, CDC says:
The amount of time a patient waited before seeing a physician in an ER has been rising steadily,
from 38 minutes in 1997,
to 47 minutes in 2004,
to 56 minutes in 2006.
Try not to break an arm people, and DEFINITELY don't have a heart attack or a stroke, ok?
The number of visits to ERs are going up in the face of emergency room closures:
Overall, about 119 million visits were made to U.S. emergency rooms in 2006, up from 90 million in 1996 - a 32 percent increase.
The emergency department served as the route of admission to hospital inpatient services for roughly 50 percent of non-obstetric hospital patients in 2006, up from 36 percent in 1996.
Meanwhile, the number of hospital emergency departments dropped to fewer than 4,600, from nearly 4,900, according to American Hospital Association statistics.
The AP story was in response to CDC release today of the study Americans Made Over 1 Billion Hospital and Doctor Visits in 2006 Americans Made Over 1 Billion Hospital and Doctor Visits in 2006
I've only been able to open the press release about the study as I get a message similar to those who arrive at now defunct emergency rooms:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is temporarily unavailable. Please try again... Thank you for your patience.
The press release emphasizes our aging population is the reason for increased medical appointment overall:
The number of visits to physician offices and hospital outpatient and emergency departments increased by 26 percent from 1996 to 2006, faster than the growth of the U.S. population, which rose by 11 percent. The rise in visits can be linked to both the aging of the population, as older people have higher visit rates than younger people in general.
What the press release does not speak to, however, is whether the increase of uninsured in the U.S. is responsible for the increase the use of emergency rooms for care that otherwise could be handled by non-emergency visits. The press release does indicate that Medicaid patients are more likely to use emergency rooms than patients with private insurance:
Patients with Medicaid use the emergency department more frequently than patients with private insurance – 82 per 100 persons for Medicaid vs. 21 per 100 for private insurance.
It's not clear how they came up with those numbers - I'm quite certain that 21 percent of the reg'lar, insured populace does not go through an emergency room in a year (or even in a lifetime, I would guess), but what does that say about Medicaid if 82 out of 100 use the ER?
It's time we pay attention - our health care infrastructure is very, very sick.