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Nation’s Emergency Rooms Receive Failing Grade

Emergency Care MalpracticePatients who have suffered medical emergencies can often attest to the many frustrations involved with emergency care, including long wait times, limited interaction with the doctor, and even medical misdiagnosis. Problems with the nation’s healthcare system have long formed the basis of emergency care malpractice lawsuits.

They’ve also been the subject of much critique from the American College of Emergency Physicians, an organization that recently released a report card for the nation’s emergency rooms. The report card was based on several subcategories; however, overall the healthcare system scored an abysmal D-plus.

Report demonstrates worsening quality of care

The American College of Emergency Physicians evaluated emergency care on a statewide and federal level, rather than evaluating individual hospitals or emergency rooms. The report card is an indicator of how well government entities are supporting emergency care initiatives. This latest report card represents a significant decline in care. In 2009, the college gave the nation an overall C-minus grade.

In a statement, the college noted that “the national grade for Access to Emergency Care remains a D- as states continue to struggle with a plethora of issues, including health care workforce shortages, shortages of on-call specialists, limited hospital capacity to meet the needs of patients, long emergency department wait times, and increasing financial barriers to care.” These issues may lead to malpractice in an emergency care setting.

In the rankings for individual states, Washington D.C. scored the highest for quality of care, while Massachusetts was second. Maine, Nebraska, and Colorado followed on their heels. Of the states ranked in the top five, Colorado represented the biggest improvement in care, jumping eight places ahead from its previous ranking in 2009.

In order, the worst ranked states for emergency care are as follows:

  • Kentucky
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • Arkansas
  • Wyoming

Out of those states, Montana fell the furthest, dropping 13 places in the ranking since 2009, while Wyoming fell nine places.

Emergency care assessments

The 136 objective measures the American College of Emergency Physicians assessed for the report fell into five categories, each of which received its own grade. Access to emergency care scored a D-minus and represented 30 percent of the total grade. This category reflects the growing demand for urgent care, despite the frequency of emergency room malpractice. It included access to treatment centers and specialists, and financial barriers to care.

The college gave a C grade to the category of quality and patient safety environment, while the medical liability environment received a C-minus. The latter category reflects the growing problem of increasing liability insurance rates for physicians, which have risen significantly because of emergency room malpractice rates. The college gave a C to the category of public health and injury prevention, while disaster preparedness received a C-minus.

Recommendations for improvements

In concluding its report, the American College of Emergency Physicians offered a series of recommendations for improving the quality of emergency care across the nation. They recommended medical liability reforms, increased coordination, and reduced patient overcrowding. The college recommended continuing the trend of using emerging technologies to better track the quality of care and patient safety. Drug monitoring programs are recommended, along with research initiatives for improving the delivery of medicine and reducing incidence of emergency room malpractice.