Survey highlights ER budget concerns

November 1, 2002

Pharmaceutical Representative

When faced with a medical emergency, 90% of Americans expect the best quality of care regardless of what it costs; however, 53% are concerned that emergency responders do not have access to the necessary medications and equipment to provide the best possible care.

When faced with a medical emergency, 90% of Americans expect the best quality of care regardless of what it costs; however, 53% are concerned that emergency responders do not have access to the necessary medications and equipment to provide the best possible care, according to a national survey of consumers and emergency workers conducted by Rochester, NY-based Harris Interactive.

Consumer concerns

The survey, called Arrive Alive, found that approximately 90% of the 1,000 American consumers polled believe emergency workers have their best interests at heart when making decisions about emergency medical care. However, many respondents feel that government officials, health insurers and others responsible for making decisions about funding and resources for emergency services are more concerned about budget constraints (34% of respondents) and politics (19% of respondents) than the public's well-being.

"While most emergency medical workers are in the business to save lives, sometimes budget constraints and conflicting priorities really do determine the resources we have access to in an ambulance or an emergency department," said Richard V. Aghababian, chair of the department of emergency medicine at UMass Memorial and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester, MA. "Sometimes, hospital administrators and managers of emergency departments or EMS systems are forced to make compromises involving the need for equipment and personnel versus what they can actually afford."

ER worker concerns

The survey, which was also administered to 301 emergency medical workers who were asked about their responses to cardiac arrest situations, found that many emergency medical workers share consumers' concerns about budget constraints affecting the quality of care. The survey found that while 87% of emergency providers believe the survival rate of cardiac arrest patients can be improved through the use of new medical therapies, 57% believe high costs and budget constraints hinder their ability to use them. Moreover, 82% believe the standard of care for cardiac arrest patients should be improved.

"When you're dealing with a cardiac arrest, you want the best tools and treatments available, such as one of the newly designed defibrillators or the most effective antiarrhythmic agent, regardless of cost constraints," said Aghababian. "Many communities do not even have enough equipment or trained first responders who can use [semi-automated external defibrillation]. Financial constraints should not impede access to resources and new techniques; nor should such constraints impede patients' expectations about receiving the best medical care possible."

Despite concerns about budget and political motivations, 88% of consumers said they would be very likely or likely to support a public official who proposed improving the quality of emergency medical care in the community. PR

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