New ACEP report blasts state, federal emergency care policies

A new report card from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is sharply critical of the state and federal emergency care environment in the U.S., giving it a grade of D-plus overall.

The overall grade was based on scores in several subcategories, including:

Access to emergency care, which made up 30 percent of the total score and included access to treatment, providers and specialists, hospital capacity and financial obstacles. The report card issued a grade of D-minus for this category. "This failing grade reflects trouble for a nation that has too few emergency departments to meet the needs of a growing, aging population and of the increasing number of people now insured as a result of the Affordable Care Act," the authors wrote.

Quality and patient safety, which represented 20 percent of the total score. For this category, researchers looked at factors such as funding for emergency medical services, medical directors, and technological and social issues such as dealing with racial disparities in care. For this category, the ACEP issued a grade of C.

Medical liability environment, which was also 20 percent of the grade. Because of liability fears, the report explains, physicians often forgo high-risk care that is medically necessary. In this category, emergency care mechanisms received a C-minus.

Public health and injury prevention, the most lightly weighted category, at 15 percent. Since injuries are the cause of almost one-third of ER visits, for this category, researchers analyzed factors such as traffic safety, drunk driving and state health and injury prevention initiatives. The grade for this category was a C.

The ACEP also made several recommendations based on their findings, including medical liability reform at the state and federal levels, further localization and coordination of specialized emergency services and solutions for hospital crowding.

To learn more:
- read the report card (.pdf)