Increased ER wait times lead to prolonged illness

Imagine running to your local ER and waiting not minutes but hours to be seen, and then the doctors admit you to the hospital, but there are no beds at all.

Yale emergency physician Arjun Venkatesh and his colleagues have documented widespread and growing overcrowding. In a pair of recently published studies, researchers looked at how long patients wait in the emergency room before being admitted.

“Those who come to the emergency room are assessed, given a diagnosis and treatment, and then have to be hospitalized. They have to stay in the hospital, but they wait two, three, four, even 12 and 24 hours for a hospital bed” , says Dr. Arjun Venkatesh.

The researchers say the waiting time, called boarding time, is well above the national recommendation of no more than four hours of waiting. As a result, Dr. Venkatesh says patients are eventually discharged from the ER.

“One in 10 people who go to the emergency room end up leaving without being treated because the wait is too long,” added the doctor.

Researchers say the shortage of health care workers contributes to overcrowding in hospitals, leading to longer wait times in the emergency room. Dr Venkatesh says hospitals should reevaluate how they deliver health care

“We have to figure out how to bring people back to the bedside, those who have the training and the skills to do that. And maybe we’ll start using artificial intelligence, computer technologies, other tools that we have to do administration to ensure that these people can care for patients and be more effective in doing so”

Previous studies have shown that overcrowding in emergency departments leads not only to delays in treatment, but also to prolonged illness and sometimes even death.

For healthcare workers, overcrowding leads to increased turnover of doctors and nurses and increased burnout.

In a new study, published in December, researchers found that overworked ER doctors can misdiagnose patients who walk through the door.

Watch the video for the full report.

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