Trend: Hospital EDs continue to face strain

Evidence continues to mount up that emergency departments are facing an overcrowding crisis. According to a new report published this week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, ED visits by people aged 65 and older are a particular problem, with visits by such patients increasing 26 percent between 1993 and 2003. These older patients are generally sicker, and often need scarce inpatient beds, but that can pose a problem as well. Diverting the less-sick patient to urgent- and minor-care clinics can have some impact, but hasn't solved the problem on its own, observers say. Add the overcrowding problem to the fact that specialists increasingly don't want to work in EDs, and you have a potential meltdown on your hands.

To find out more about the problem:
- read this Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report item

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