United States Gets A 'D' When It Comes To Emergency Medical Care
January 17, 2014

United States Gets A ‘D’ When It Comes To Emergency Medical Care

[ Watch the Video: Low Marks For US Emergency Healthcare ]

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A new report card issued by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) gave the United States a ‘D’ when it comes to emergency medical services.

Released Thursday, the report card also graded individual states on how well states support emergency care. The organization found that the emergency care environment in the US has worsened since 2009, when the ACEP issued a similar report card giving the country a C-minus.

"This report card is saying: The nation's policies are failing to support emergency patients," Alexander Rosenau, president of the ACEP, told CNN.

According to its official website, the ACEP is the “oldest and largest national medical specialty organization representing physicians who practice emergency medicine.”

While the organization’s report does not name individual physicians or hospitals, it does assess states in five different categories: Access to Emergency Care, the Quality and Patient Safety Environment, the Medical Liability Environment, Public Health and Injury Prevention, and Disaster Preparedness.

This time around, the ACEP used 136 measures for grading the states and the country. Each indicator was chosen to meet several key criteria: relevance, reliability, validity, reproducibility, and consistency across all of the states.

The ACEP ranked the US either the same or worse in every major category since 2009. Quality and patient safety environment, public health and injury prevention, and disaster preparedness were all given a ‘C+’ or a ‘C’. The medical liability was graded a ‘C-‘, and access to emergency care received a barely-passable ‘D-‘.

Each category in the report card was broken down into subcategories. For example, Access to Emergency Care, which was 30 percent of the total grade, was divided into: Access to Providers (25 percent of the category), Access to Treatment Centers (25 percent), Financial Barriers (25 percent) and Hospital Capacity (25 percent).

"If I'm in a car crash and they bring me to hospital that's not ready for me, my chances of survival are less," said Dr. Jon Mark Hirshon, an emergency physician at the University of Maryland and ACEP board member. "So you want a state that has that type of trauma system. And when you look at patient safety, that's one of the components of patient safety."

"You can have the best medicine in the world, but it won't matter if people can't get to it," he added.

The report also noted there were 247 visits to the emergency room per minute in 2010, including nearly 38 million visits related to injury. Many experts are predicting this number will only increase as baby boomers develop medical problems resulting from old age.

The report projected the Affordable Care Act could also lower the quality of emergency care as millions of people who are newly insured or were added to Medicaid seek emergency care.

"We'll be asked to do more with less resources, which has the potential to impact emergency patients," Hirshon said.

The report card was not without some positives, as improvements in care since the 2009 report card were noted; such as one state starting a new trauma system and another boosting medical liability laws.