The US Emergency Care System Meeting Everyday Acute Care Needs While Being Ready For Disasters
Author: Nicole Lurie, Gregg S. Margolis, Kristin L. Rising
The emergency care system is an essential part of the US health care system. In addition to providing acute resuscitation and life- and limb-saving care, the emergency care system provides considerable support to physicians outside the emergency department and serves as an important safety-net provider. In times of disaster, the emergency care system must be able to surge rapidly to accommodate a massive influx of patients, sometimes with little or no notice. Extreme daily demands on the system can promote innovations and adaptations that are invaluable in responding to disasters. However, excessive and inappropriate utilization is wasteful and can diminish “surge capacity” when it is most needed. Certain features of the US health care system have imposed strains on the emergency care system. We explore policy issues related to moving toward an emergency care system that can more effectively meet both individuals’ needs for acute care and the broader needs of the community in times of disaster. Strategies for the redesign of the emergency care system must include the active engagement of both patients and the community and a close look at how to align incentives to reward quality and efficiency throughout the health care system.