An internal medicine physician at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has come up with a way to figure that one out.
The study, published in The American Journal of Medicine, looks at how much patients at an emergency department were able to get through an hour of surgery and concludes that, for patients who received the most expensive treatments, the average time it took for the patient to be transferred to a facility was more than 10 minutes longer than the average for the rest of the population.
“This is the first study that shows that emergency department patients were better off when they got to the hospital, compared to when they did not,” Dr. Michael E. Kallstrom told Bleacher Sports.
“There’s some evidence to suggest that if you wait for patients to get to the emergency department and then transfer them to a local hospital, you can expect them to do better than if they wait and wait and hope for the best.”
The study involved 6,400 emergency room visits, which included patients with acute coronary syndromes, heart failure, pneumonia, and other severe and chronic illnesses.
The researchers then measured how long it took each patient to arrive at the emergency room.
They found that in the first three hours after a patient arrived at the hospital (with a hospital bed open), the average length of time it would take them to arrive there was 20 minutes longer.
In the next three hours, the mean time it was 10 minutes shorter.
In other words, patients who got to a hospital after they received more expensive treatments were more likely to be in the ER by the end of the second hour.
The team also found that emergency room patients who had the most costly treatment tended to wait longer to be transported to the ICU.
That suggests that when emergency department physicians decide whether or not to treat a patient with a more expensive treatment, they need to take into account how much it costs and how long that treatment takes.
The findings also support the idea that hospitals can improve care by ensuring that patients get better care within the first few hours.
“We need to understand how the patient arrives to the ER and whether that is the right place for them,” Dr Kallston said.
“That will help us figure out whether or that this is an effective way to improve care.”
The findings are part of a larger study of emergency department care in the U.S., which has also found higher rates of hospital-acquired pneumonia among people in the emergency departments.