"With 44 million uninsured Americans, hospital emergency departments provide a great deal of uncompensated care as the nation's health care safety net," said Judd E. Hollander, MD, with the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study authors. "With the constant pressure to minimize health care costs and frequent reimbursement changes that reduce funds for uncompensated care, it is critical that hospitals adopt interventions to more efficiently move admitted emergency department patients into inpatient beds. This would free up emergency department beds for incoming patients."
To determine whether long waits for inpatient beds impact hospital revenue, emergency medicine researchers at the University of Pennsylvania chose to examine chest pain patients, because their care in the emergency department is standardized and they are frequently admitted to telemetry beds, which are hospital beds equipped to monitor a cardiac patient's condition.
Of the 904 visits made by chest pain patients to an urban emergency department between Oct. 1, 1999 and Sept. 30, 2000, 91 percent (825) waited greater than 3 hours for a telemetry bed to become available in the hospital. Patients who sought care on weekdays had longer lengths of stay in the emergency department--2 hours longer on average--than patients seeking care on weekends, the study found.
Researchers attribute the long waits to the shortage of inpatient telemetry beds, which other studies have confirmed as a nationwide problem. Possible reasons researchers give for the shortage o
Contact: Colleen Hughes
American College of Emergency Physicians