while er wait times are improving dangers still remain

It goes without saying that most people view the prospect of a trip to the emergency room with a certain degree of dread. However, in some cases, this dread may not necessarily stem from their ailment or even a fear of the hospital, but rather from the possibility of having to sit in a crowded waiting room for hours before being seen by a medical professional.

While the independent, nonprofit news group ProPublica has determined that the average national wait time to be seen by a physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant is roughly 28 minutes, these wait times still vary widely depending upon such factors as patient volume, population density and staffing levels, to name only a few.

To illustrate, while ProPublica determined that the average wait time for Pennsylvania hospitals was 28 minutes, a quick scan of its comprehensive report reveals that the wait times to see a doctor at some of the Keystone State’s many ERs range from as low as eight minutes to as long as 86 minutes.

All this is significant, of course, because long waits in the ER often mean the medical staff is rushed and/or stretched to its limits. In these hurried atmospheres, medical professionals may conduct inadequate examinations resulting in misdiagnoses or even failures to diagnose what could prove to be life-threatening conditions.

Consider what happens when a patient shows up at the emergency room with telltale signs of a heart attack, only to have a harried physician dismiss it as indigestion and prescribe nothing more than an antacid.

It’s easy to see how this could prove tragic very quickly.

The good news is that more and more hospitals are now taking steps to address the problem of lengthy waiting periods in the ER and, by extension, the risk these delays pose to patients.

For example, a Cincinnati-area hospital has an impressive ER wait time of only 12 minutes thanks to the recent implementation of a plan in which doctors, nurses and techs all work in teams, and doctors go to patients instead of waiting for them to be routed to them.

Have you been to the emergency room lately? If so, what was your experience like? Did you have to wait long or were you seen relatively quickly?

If you or a family member has been victimized by what you believe to be emergency room malpractice, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, “ER wait times on rise nationwide,” Katie Sullivan, Feb. 27, 2014

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