Emergency Room Overcrowding

Overcrowding in the ER: A State of Emergency?

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What happens when an emergency room encounters more patients than it can accommodate? MHA@GW, the online master of health administration offered through the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, created the below infographic to help explain why ER overcrowding happens and who it hurts. In addition to detailing some of the causes behind congestion in ER settings, the graphic also describes ways in which the problem affects care delivery and how we might alleviate overcrowding in the future.

Have you seen care suffer as a result of overcrowding in an ER setting? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

Article contributed by: Emily Newhook, Community Relations Manager for MHA@GW at The Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University

Brought to you by MHA@GW: MHA degree

About the author: 

Emily Newhook Milton Institute of Public HealthEmily Newhook is an outreach coordinator for the MHA degree program from The George Washington University, MHA@GW. Outside of work, she enjoys writing and powerlifting. Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyNewhook and





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1 reply
  1. Caitlin says:

    Hello, I am Caitlin and I currently work at an emergency department as a specialty care technician. I also am a medic in the military and am attending school for nursing. Emergency department overcrowding is an issue I have always been interested in.
    A reasonable solution could also be to expand on urgent care centers, and operate them twenty-four hours. Urgent care centers, as mentioned by United Hospital Fund (UHM, 2015), should include on-site laboratories, radiology capabilities, EKG machines, respiratory treatments, suturing, and basic medications. By urgent care centers becoming more convenient for patients and holding more capabilities, it would help alleviate some of the stress put on emergency departments. One of the main reasons patients use emergency departments is convenience, so the more available we make other services, the less crowded emergency departments will become (Fay, 2016).
    Hotlines, I would agree, are a great way to cut back on emergency department patient flow. “Washington created an info-sharing network among emergency departments to identify Medicaid beneficiaries who are frequent users of the emergency department…Once patients are identified, hospital personnel make primary care appointments for them, with the goal of having them seen within ninety-six hours of their emergency room visit” (Ollove, 2015, para. 27). Washington shows a great example of hotlines working to help patients find primary doctors and directing patient flow to facilities other than emergency departments.
    Overall, I loved the ideas brought up in this article towards attaining an emergency department that does not become overcrowded easily. Hopefully the points brought up here can be initiated soon to provide the best patient care possible at the cheapest cost to them.


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