The largest group of emergency medicine physicians has given the U.S. a D+ grade for the way in which emergency medical services are supported. Ohio rated only slightly better than the national average, garnering a C+ grade. While the report card was issued by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) as a way to promote its members’ agenda, it underscores some shortcomings of the ER services that put patients at risk.
ACEP’s press release for the report card states the following: “Emergency physicians today sounded a warning that the continuing failure of state and national policies is endangering emergency patients, citing as proof a worse grade of D+ in the latest edition of a state-by-state report card on support for emergency care (Report Card). The Report Card forecasts an expanding role for emergency departments under Obamacare and describes the harmful effects of the competing pressures of shrinking resources and increasing demands.”
We all know that “shrinking resources and increasing demands” means that hospitals are trying to do more with less in order to drive profits up. “Less” means fewer and less qualified ER nurses and doctors. In our medical malpractice law firm, we have seen a steady flow of medical negligence claims arising out of the ER. Emergency medicine specialists are critical in making an initial assessment, obtaining and properly interpreting initial diagnostic studies like blood work and imaging, getting proper treatment started, deciding whether to admit the patient, determining the type and level care to be provided on admission, and accurately conveying the patient’s condition to the admitting physician and floor nurses.
We have seen bad outcomes arise from breakdowns in all facets of the ER process. These medical errors include: failure to accurately and thoroughly communicate patient information to admitting personnel, misinterpreting test results, admitting patients to the wrong service, underestimating the patient’s acuity, failing to get a thorough and accurate history, ignoring the patient’s concerns, making the wrong diagnosis, and ordering the wrong tests. As resources get stretched further and further, expect Ohio’s ER grade to go down.