New Harvard Study Deals Another Blow To Tort Reform Advocates

A new study from Harvard Medical School Researchers at Cambridge Health Alliance has found that the waiting time for patients seeking emergency care is getting longer each year. The study examined the time between patients' arrivals in the emergency department (ED) and when they were first seen by a doctor, and found that the average wait tme increased 36% from 1997 to 2004. Some additional findings of significance in the study are: (1) patients needing emergent care waited even longer - waiting on average 40% longer in 2004 than in 1997. (2) patients suffering from heart attacks waited even longer still -- on average 150% longer in 2004 than in 1997. (3) the increased delays affected everyone, including those with and without health insurance, and people from all racial and ethnic groups. The authors noted that "prolonged ED waits have serious implications for the quality of care." When treatment is delayed, particularly for severely ill patients such as those suffering from heart attacks, patient recovery and survivability is adversely affected. Of note, the study did not find that medical malpractice claims were a factor in the reduction of quality of care at Emergency Departments, nor did it advocate the need for tort reform measures as a solution to the reduced quality of care. As such, the study is yet another blow to tort reform advocates who blame medical malpractice litigation for the poor quality of care received by Americans. A link to the new study can be found at http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.27.2.w84/DC1
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