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Racial disparities in emergency department length of stay point to added risks for minority patients
Date:3/5/2009

(PHILADELPHIA) Sick or injured African-American patients wait about an hour longer than patients of other races before being transferred to an inpatient hospital bed following emergency room visits, according to a new national study published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine. The authors say the findings underscore the urgency to find equitable, cost-effective solutions to provide better care in the nation's emergency departments, which are already strained by unprecedented crowding and more visits from the nation's uninsured population, which is expected to balloon toward 55 million people in the next decade.

"Emergency departments are not designed to care for patients for long time, but it happens all over the country," says lead author Jesse M. Pines, MD, MBA, MSCE, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a senior fellow in Penn's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. "What's most concerning is that the longer people stay in the ED, the more likely they are to die. Our findings may actually explain some of the worse outcomes that we see in black populations. But the good news is that these disparities are actually fixable. Hospitals do need to put more resources into EDs to improve efficiency, but the real problem is the on the 'back-end,' because hospitals tend to prioritize inpatient patients for elective procedures and make the ED patients wait. Now we know that minorities are disproportionately affected by this system."

In an examination of 14,516 hospital admissions from emergency departments in 408 U.S. hospitals between 2003 and 2005, the authors found a mean overall emergency room length of stay of 349 minutes. African-American patients, however, waited about an hour longer than those of other races, for admission to both intensive-care units and non-ICU beds. Despite adjusting for factors that might influence length of stay di
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5659
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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