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With ERs, the Busier May Be the Better

Risk of death may be 10 percent lower at high-volume emergency rooms

THURSDAY, July 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Surviving a life-threatening illness or injury may be more likely when treated at a busy emergency department instead of one that handles fewer patients, according to a new study published online July 16 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data on 17.5 million emergency patients treated at nearly 3,000 hospitals across the United States. The overall risk of death in the hospital was 10 percent lower among those who initially went to the busiest emergency departments rather than to the least busy ones.

The survival difference was even greater for patients with serious, time-sensitive conditions. The findings held even when the researchers accounted for differences in the patients' health and income level, hospital location, and technology. But the study wasn't designed to look into the reasons for the finding; it only found an association between better survival rates and busier emergency departments.

"It's too early to say that based on these results, patients and first responders should change their decision about which hospital to choose in an emergency," the study's lead author, Keith Kocher, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a university news release. "But the bottom line is that emergency departments and hospitals perform differently, there really are differences in care and they matter."

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