Overuse of Emergency Departments Topic Proposal

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My topic proposal is the overuse of the emergency department. It’s an issue that every hospital in America is grappling with. Emergency room visits nationwide are on the rise, even as the total number of emergency rooms is falling. Add this to the fact that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recent publication, National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2006 Emergency Department Summary, only 15.9 million out of 119 million visits to the emergency room in 2006 was urgent or emergent. Going to an emergency room instead of scheduling a doctor's appointment has become a trend in this country. Translated into dollars and cents that means 40.5 million people paid up to three times as much for routine care as they would have paid at a physician's office. They probably wasted a lot of time too because emergency rooms are not set up to care for routine illness, and they do not work on a first-come, first-served basis as many people mistakenly believe. To ensure that the sickest patients get immediate care, emergency rooms use a triage (French for "sorting") system of evaluation so that critical cases, such as people suffering from heart attacks or injuries from serious accidents or violent crimes, are treated first. Everyone else may have to wait quite a while before being seen. In fact, the average wait for emergency treatment nationwide is about two hours. Demand for ED visits is on the rise and EDs are becoming overcrowded largely due to reduced inpatient capacity and impaired patient flow. The Institute of Medicine reports that American ED visits grew more than twice as fast as population between 1993 and 2003, and that 60% of hospitals operated at or over capacity in 2001. Several factors likely contribute to the rise in ED use, such as the increase in elderly and chronically ill Americans, overworked or lack of primary care

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