October 17, 2005
Every year millions of
people visit emergency departments in the United States.
"Visits to the nations
emergency departments (EDs) reached a record high of nearly 114
million in 2003, but the number of EDs decreased by 12 percent from
1993 to 2003, according to a new report released today by the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ... The average waiting
time to see a physician was 46.5 minutes, the same as it was in
2000. The wait time was unchanged despite increased visits. ...
On average, patients spent 3.2 hours in the ED, which includes time
with the physician as well as other clinical services."
Some numbers to consider:
Visits (Data are for U.S. for 2003)
- Number of visits: 113.9 million
- Number of injury-related visits: 40.2
- Number of illness-related visits: 74 million
- Number of visits per 100 persons: 38.9"
Of those 113.9 million
visits, 17,731,000 were made by teenagers and young adults between
the ages of 15 and 24. This accounts for an average of 44.2 visits
per 100 people in this age range.
Of the 17.7 million teens
and young adults who were seen in emergency rooms, 11.9 percent
were considered "Emergent," or "A visit in which
the patient should be seen in less than 15 minutes;" 34.6 percent
were considered, "Urgent, " or "A visit in which
the patient should be seen within 15 - 60 minutes;" 22.0 percent
were considered "Semiurgent," or "A visit in which
the patient should be seen within 61 - 120 minutes;" and 15.1
percent were considered "Nonurgent," or "A visit
in which the patient should be seen within 121 minutes - 24 hours."
Emergencies are not common.
Many injuries and illnesses (such as cuts and colds) can be taken
care of safely and properly at home.
"Minor cuts and scrapes
usually don't require a trip to the emergency room. Yet proper care
is essential to avoid infection or other complications."
In some cases, it can be
more difficult to determine if professional medical care is needed.
"The specific cause
of chest pain is often difficult to interpret. Causes of the pain
can vary from minor problems, such as indigestion or stress, to
serious medical emergencies, such as a heart attack or pulmonary
embolism. As with other sudden, unexplained pain, chest pain may
be a signal for you to get medical help. ..."
More information about
these and many other conditions (including general guidelines about
when to seek help) can be found at:
don't occur every day. But when they do, you should have the information
you need to deal with these situations. ..."
While people shouldn't
to be running to the emergency room for every little scrape, they
don't want to ignore serious medical conditions that may need immediate
help from a medical professional, either. In a true emergency, there
is no time to look things up online and see if you need to get to
an emergency room immediately. Life or limb saving time could be
"If you're ever in
doubt and no one is around to ask, it's better to call 911 and let
the operator decide if it's a real emergency than to take the chance
that someone who needs help doesn't get it quickly."
Questions of the Week:
What options are available to people who have an illness or injury
with which they need assistance when they are unable to reach their
doctors? How do these options differ for those who do not have a
regular doctor or access to medical insurance? If you or someone
you know is sick or injured, how can you determine whether or not
the situation is a medical emergency? What can you do if you think
it is an emergency, and someone you are with (or the person in who
needs help) thinks otherwise?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum