Care in a busy ER could cost more…and not just money

Whether you call them emergency rooms or emergency departments, a recent study shows that if you seek medical attention when one is busy you might be risking more than money. According to the study, there was a direct link between busy ERs, mortality risk and higher financial costs.

In an average workplace, rushing a task may not seem like a big deal, but when it comes to literally life-saving decisions it certainly does. In fact, the statistics analyzed in the study showed that the mortality rate increased by 5 percent when an emergency department was busy enough that ambulances had to be redirected.

When a doctor’s attention is diverted or their decision-making is hurried, it leaves significant room for mistakes, misdiagnoses and medical errors. Busy rooms also mean longer hours and fatigue that can lead to many of the same problems.

A common practice in busy emergency rooms is to have patients wait until a bed becomes available — something called ED boarding. These waits can cause a serious time-sensitive condition to worsen dramatically or become fatal such as a heart attack or pneumonia.

According to the study, it wasn’t just the risk of death that increased, but the cost of treatment as well. While the tests may cost the same, the study found that patients were actually required to stay in the hospital for longer than usual. Each minute that ticks by means a higher cost of admission.

When it comes to an emergency room visit, some patients don’t have time to turn down the road and find another, less busy one. Sometimes patients don’t have a choice. They do have a choice when it comes to holding those who make medical errors responsible.

Source: Med Page Today, “Crowded EDs May Be Serious Health Hazard,” Crystal Phend, Dec. 12, 2012

Our Pittsburgh legal website provides more information about medication errors and other types of medical malpractice.