ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2011; 18:1255–1261 © 2011 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine


Overcrowding of U.S. emergency departments (EDs) is a widely recognized and growing problem. This presentation offers the perspectives of a primary care physician (PCP) examining the problem at three levels: global health policy, quality process improvement, and more intimate clinical caring. It posits that ED overcrowding is actually a symptom of 10 more fundamental problems in U.S. health care and EDs: variations/supply-demand mismatch; primary care provider shortfalls; limited after-hours access; admission throughput challenges; clinical challenges related to discontinuity patients; clinical challenges related to those with special needs; interruptions; testing logistical challenges; suboptimal information systems; and fragmented/dysfunctional health insurance system, leaving many un- and underinsured.