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ERs are overcrowded, increasing patient risk

For a long time, hospitals and ERs in Oklahoma and across the U.S. have had to struggle with overcrowding, and this continues to put patients at risk. As early as 2007, the Institute of Medicine noted that overcrowding can lead to life-threatening delays in treatment. It is also linked to delays in the administration of medication and to various medical errors, especially diagnostic errors.

The year 2016 saw a total of 143.6 million ER visits in the U.S. with 12.6 million of these leading to hospital admission. Yet ERs do not accommodate only those with an unforeseen health condition; many people are there waiting for a scheduled procedure. Holding such patients until a hospital bed is available is a practice known as boarding, and this, more than anything else, causes overcrowding.

In addition to the rising cost of staffing, technology and equipment, the constraints placed on some insurance carriers have led to the widespread practice of boarding. Medicare, for example, has made its reimbursement rate higher for surgical and elective procedures than for the management of medical conditions. Hospitals then prioritize the former, give the specialists in those fields more freedom in scheduling and assign beds only to those specialties, thus taking away from patient care in the ER.

One report found that in 2016, two-thirds of hospitals boarded patients for two hours or longer. It goes without saying that delaying treatment can cause a condition to worsen, which can open the way for a medical malpractice claim. Victims, for their part, may want a lawyer to assist them with filing such a claim since the process can be complicated. A lawyer might request an inquiry with the local medical board and hire third parties for an independent investigation before going on to negotiate a settlement.