Emergency Room Care Quality Rankings Released


When it comes to treating the elderly, not all emergency rooms are created equal, according to a recent study conducted on Medicare beneficiaries.

The study, conducted by health care research company, HealthGrades, concluded that people admitted to one of the country's 236 top-performing emergency departments experienced a 40 percent reduction in their risk of death.

This figure is particularly pertinent to caregivers of the elderly as the study also found that the majority of seniors (61 percent) enter a hospital through the doors of the emergency department.

To discover the best emergency programs, researchers analyzed the records of over seven million Medicare beneficiaries admitted to the hospital by way of the emergency room between the years 2008 and 2010. A variety of ailments afflicted the seniors in the study, including: heart failure, sepsis, pneumonia, pancreatitis, and stroke, among others.

Where you live could make the difference between life and death

According to researchers, nearly 171,000 lives could have been saved between 2008 and 2010 if every emergency department exhibited the quality of care found in the top five percent of hospitals in the study.

Unfortunately, like real estate, the value of emergency room care appears to depend on location, location, location. Ninety-four of the 263 top hospitals are clustered around eight major cities: Baltimore, Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Phoenix-Prescott, Chicago, and Cleveland.

Seniors who live outside the reasonable range of these cities may not be able to get to a top-tier hospital in a life-or-death emergency situation.

Knowledge could save their life

When your elderly loved one requires emergency care, you may or may not be able to choose which ER they go to. If you call an ambulance, the EMT may solicit your opinion as to where you want a senior to go, but more often they will make a decision on which hospital is most appropriate based on the senior's ailment and the current state of patient traffic in the nearest ERs.

However, knowing how your local hospitals rank may help in the event of a lesser emergency.

Caregivers should do their homework in advance—researching the hospitals in their area in order to find the best one. In a company press release, study author, Arshad Rahim, M.D., director of accelerated clinical excellence at HealthGrades, urges people to "educate themselves about the quality of emergency medical providers in their area and to choose a top performing hospital whenever there is a choice."

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We can start by calling our nearest ER (if your loved one presses her call button - they are taken to the NEAREST ER - no choice in the matter!

Ask if they have the 'clot busting' drug on hand for strokes. Ask if they have a physician on duty 24/7. We have used our local ER several times and they have done a good job. In the past they DID NOT HAVE the clot busting drug that is administered for stroke - but, now they do. A real load off our minds - since my MIL had a slight stroke 6 weeks ago. Of course, she did not tell us for two weeks :0( It was very slight. It could happen again. A friend who is a nurse said sometimes they get 'confused' while suffering a stroke and they just get quiet and go to bed. This is exactly what she did. Then she sort of stayed to herself for a few days (she has her own little MIL apt attached to our home), which she has done before. There was really no way for us to know until she told us her symptoms and I think it took her a while for it to 'register' that what happened to her was very dangerous. She has beginning dementia as well. So, even though we made her promise to tell us if she ever felt 'funny' again - who knows if she will.

If your loved one has HH aids or a visiting nurse - ask THEM where they would go in an emergency. That says a lot :0)

So where can we go online to find out how a local hospital does rank?
There is a cluster of hospitals in the downtown area of the city so all of them are "closest." The time we used an ambulance we were simply asked which hospital to go to.

An important factor that isn't mentioned here is that there may be differing answers to what is the best emergency room for my loved one, and what is the best hospital. Having my husband's primary care physician in charge of his hospitalization is the driving factor for me. We go where she practices.