News Updates – Current Events in Emergency Medicine

Published May 09, 2013

Our bi-weekly news updates are designed to keep you up to date with current developments relating to the Acute Care Continuum. Feel free to share your perspective on these stories or link to articles that you have found relevant to today’s healthcare environment.

Boston Hospitals Praised for their Response to Marathon Bombings

After two explosive devices went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, first responders mobilized and patients were quick triaged and dispatched to emergency departments (EDs) around the city. The quick response resulted in only three confirmed deaths, which is “attributable to more than just providence and the extraordinary skill and courage of the volunteer and professional responders…the response was enabled by the medial community’s prior efforts to build and sustain emergency-preparedness programs and, perhaps most important, to practice its response in exercises and drills”. This recent perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine examines how Boston was able to respond in such a quick and coordinated fashion thanks to a decade of emergency planning across the city’s hospitals, EDs, and public health organizations.

Using Advertising to Steer Patients Away from the ED

An advertisement created by Britain’s National Health Service and part of their “choosing wisely” campaign has been garnering attention stateside because of its message of steering patients with less severe illnesses away from the ED to an alternate location. Similar to the US, trips to the ED in Great Britain can be expensive and increase the wait times for higher-acuity patients. However, the practice of educating patients with lower acuity symptoms to visit an urgent care center(UCC) or other setting is a relatively new practice in the United States. In fact, many US hospitals choose to advertise their shorter wait times instead of steering patients elsewhere out of fear of losing that additional revenue.

Freestanding Emergency Departments Questioned

As the demand for emergency medical care has grown, so has the number of freestanding EDs across the country. Operating similarly as UCCs, these freestanding EDs are often located in rural areas where there is not a nearby hospital and appeal to patients for their (on average) shorter wait times and convenient location. However, as the article describes, private insurers have grown uneasy because freestanding EDs have become revenue-generating centers for the physicians and hospitals that run them.

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