Survey: ER problems will worsen despite reform

A new survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians reveals that, despite health reform, 71 percent of emergency physicians believe ER visits will continue to rise and that crowding will intensify. Further, 54 percent of the 1,800 physicians surveyed predict that the number of specialists such as neurosurgeons and cardiologists who will be willing to respond to ER calls, will drop.

"The nation's emergency physicians absolutely support reforming our nation's healthcare system and expanding health insurance coverage to all Americans," Dr. Angela Gardner, president of the ACEP, said in a news release. "However, health insurance coverage does not equal access to medical care, especially with an aging population and physician shortages. You also can't prevent most emergencies."

In addition, 61 percent of the respondents don't believe the new law will effectively address uncompensated care, which has closed hundreds of emergency departments in America, most recently St. Vincent's in New York City. "If the Times Square bomber had actually blown up his car, injured victims able to walk would have found the doors of nearby St. Vincent's closed and locked," Gardner said.

However, there are ways the healthcare system can keep routine care out of the ER, where it costs five times more than in a doctor's office or clinic, according to the Washington Post. Strategies include establishing more offices and clinics not based in hospitals, including pharmacy-based retail clinics; investing in allied professionals such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and medical technicians to deliver much of this basic care; improving systems related to healthcare delivery; understanding and planning for communities' particular needs; and making the most of technology to link patients with informed advice about their conditions.

To learn more:
- read the ACEP press release
- check out this HealthDay article
- read this Washington Post piece