Monday, November 9, 2009

No Surprise

Interesting, but not surprising, findings discussed on an LA Times blog today. The post reports on results published in a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine that looked at ER utilization.

*The median wait time for ER patients increased from 22 minutes in 1997 to 33 minutes by 2006.

*The proportion of ER patients deemed to be suffering from a real medical emergency fell from 26.9% to 18.3% from 1997 to 2007.

*Per capita use of the ER was also up during the same period.

As previous reports have indicated, these numbers aren't driven simply by the uninsured, but stem from a general lack of access to primary care. Of course, I'd add the increasing public perception of the ER as a legitimate source of primary care to the list of casual factors.

Debating the merits of different financing schemes is great - and necessary - but until people have access to their own source of primary care, ER overcrowding will remain a serious problem.

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