An angry response to yesterday’s Slate article

From Health Care BS:

As I have pointed out many times, a good deal of BS appears in the “news” media relating to health care. Few articles, however, reach the level of irresponsibility achieved yesterday in Slate.

The authors of this disgraceful piece of agitprop would have their readers believe that the people who run hospitals deliberately allow people to languish in their ERs for financial gain. The suggestion is not merely slanderous. It is absurd on its face.

Street Fentanyl Tied To Many Deaths

From the Wall Street Journal Health Blog:

Illicit versions of the painkiller fentanyl were linked to more than 1,000 deaths in this country between 2005 and 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

The powerful painkiller, often mixed with cocaine or heroin and taken by injection, first caught the attention of the CDC in 2006, after it was connected to a wave of overdose deaths in Camden, New Jersey. Further investigation tied it to deaths in other cities, including Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and St. Louis.

Is Keeping Patients Waiting in the ER a Good Business Move?

From the Wall Street Journal Health Blog:

Those long emergency room waits that we are all familiar with may be good for a hospital’s bottom line, a couple of academic emergency medicine docs write today in Slate.

How’s that? Patients who show up at the emergency room are less likely than patients admitted to the hospital by a staff physician to need lucrative, procedure-driven care. And those ER patients may be more likely than those admitted by a doctor to have bad insurance or no insurance at all, they argue. (Though it is worth noting that one recent analysis found that the well-off made up much of the recent growth in ER traffic).

A hospital only has so many inpatient beds, so it makes economic sense to fill the beds up with the lucrative, well-insured patients admitted by staff physicians. That creates an incentive to keep ER patients in a holding pattern, waiting for an inpatient bed to open up. This practice, known as “boarding,” in turn keeps the emergency department stuffed to the gills, and makes wait times longer for patients who show up at the ER without an immediately life-threatening emergency.