Critical Path Network: More ED crowding seen at large, urban hospitals

Hospitals experiencing the most problems with emergency department (ED) crowding are located in large metropolitan areas with high population growth and a large percentage of uninsured people, according to a recent report by the federal government’s General Accounting Office (GAO).

Facilities in areas with populations of 2.5 million or more went on diversion a median of 162 hours in fiscal 2001, compared with nine hours for hospitals in areas with populations of fewer than 1 million people. Hospitals in areas with higher percentages of uninsured had almost twice as high a median percentage of patients leaving the ED prior to medical evaluation, another measure of ED crowding the GAO studied.

While two of every three EDs reported going on diversion at some point during the year, fewer than one in 10 hospitals was on diversion more than 20% of the time.

(For more information, go to www.gao.gov. Click on "For the Press," and enter the document number GAO-03-460 under "Finding GAO documents.")