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As the numbers show, the emergency room overcrowding crisis has reached epic proportions.

By Linda Keslar // Summer 2008

Percentage increase in ER visits from 1993 to 2003

Approximate proportion of metropolitan hospitals that reported ER overcrowding from 2003 to 2004

Approximate proportion of U.S. hospitals that diverted ambulances to other ERs from 2003 to 2004 because of overcrowding or staffing shortages

Percentage increase in ER visits by people ages 65 to 74 from 1995 to 2005 (expected to rise as the population grows older)

Year when the Access to Emergency Medical Services Act was introduced, which includes a call to develop standards for ambulance diversion and patient boarding. The latter—the practice of leaving admitted patients for extended stays in the ER until inpatient beds become available—is the primary cause of ER crowding.


Sick of Waiting

Car accident victim

Emergency room jam-ups threaten patients, inflate costs and disrupt hospital operations. Small fixes might solve this big problem.

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