20 Surprising Facts About Emergency Rooms

In the healthcare reform debate, emergency rooms have received a lot of discussion. In fact, one of the healthcare reform goals was to reduce the number of visits to emergency rooms by providing healthcare coverage that covers doctor visits. This allows patients to have access to better preventive care.

Emergency rooms are critical to the American health care system, since they are often the only place that patients can get care in a time of crisis. For a variety of reasons, they are often used for purposes other than for what they are intended. Here are 20 facts about emergency rooms you may not know.

  1. Emergency room visits increased by 26 percent from 1993 to 2003.
  2. During that same period, 425 emergency departments were cut and the number of hospital beds declined by 198,000.
  3. About 15.6 percent of the visits to the emergency rooms are for general symptoms like pain and fever.
  4. Musculoskeletal symptoms such as bone breaks, fractures, and muscle sprains, accounted for 13.7 percent of emergency room visits.
  5. Each year hospital acquired infections kill about 90,000 patients, making the hospital a place you do not want to visit unless you absolutely have to. This figure is up 36% since 1980. The rise is attributed to the creation of more antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  6. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average emergency room visit costs about $400, while the average doctor visit costs about $60, according to the American Medical Association.
  7. Children make up 27 percent of all emergency room visits, but only 6% of US emergency rooms have all of the necessary supplies for pediatric emergencies.
  8. Between 1993 and 2003, 1.7 million visits to the emergency room were for adverse effects from other medical treatment.
  9. Overall, patients spend an average of 3.2 hours on each visit to an emergency room.
  10. The average wait time to see a doctor in an emergency room is 46 minutes. In 2007, 18% of patients were seen in 15 minutes or less.
  11. In 2007, there were 116.8 million visits to emergency rooms in the US.
  12. In 2007, 12.5% of patients who visited the emergency room were admitted to the hospital.
  13. Medicaid beneficiaries go to emergency rooms more often than others, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Their report shows that 15% of Medicaid beneficiaries under 65 had two or more ER visits, compared with 7% of the uninsured and 5% of people with private insurance.
  14. Residents of the District of Columbia visit the emergency room more than residents of any state. Among the states, people in West Virginia visit the emergency room the most and people in California visit it the least.
  15. In 2006, there were 1,742,887 drug-related emergency room visits nationwide.
  16. 31% of these visits involved illicit drugs only.
  17. 7% of these visits involved minors and alcohol.
  18. Overall, 33% of drug related visits to the emergency room involve alcohol (sometimes in combination with other drugs).
  19. The single most common illicit drug use that results in emergency room visits is cocaine.
  20. The most common type of prescription drug use resulting in emergency room visits, are the drugs in the opioid category, specifically hydrocodone, oxycodone, and methadone.

As you can see, emergency room visits are on the rise and the reasons for this are varied. In many cases physicians could have easily have treated these patients during office hours, reducing costs and inconvenience, as well as making the emergency rooms more efficient for those patients who have true emergencies.

Only time will tell if healthcare reform will reduce the crowding in our emergency rooms, helping reduce costs and inconvenience for everyone involved. What is certain are that the demands for services from emergency rooms has been on the rise for years, and many of those services have been reduced.

Keep abreast of the information provided each year by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to stay on top of what is happening in our nation’s emergency rooms each year.

How do I transition from a paramedic to an RN?

Professional training and scope of practice are the major differences between paramedics and registered nurses. Some paramedics choose to advance their certification by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) since an RN license typically requires a degree. Becoming an RN can boost your income and employment opportunities as well as provide the chance to specialize or move into supervisory positions. More importantly, an MSN will require a bachelor’s degree for enrollment, adding one more advantage a BSN has over an ADN. Learn more about your options by checking out the BSN and BSN bridge programs listed below:


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