Emergency rooms are often fast paced environments that place an emphasis on doing everything possible to extend life. However, with more older Americans using emergency rooms than ever before, emergency room physicians and their staff are often ill equipped to address their unique needs. According to an article recently published in the Kaiser Health News (“Influx Of Elderly Patients Forces ER To Practice Comfort Care”), emergency rooms are struggling to best address this issue.
The article interviewed Dr. Ken Ouchi, an emergency room physician, who pursued emergency medicine to rescue victims of car crashes or gunshot wounds. He was unprepared for the stream of older patients with dementia, cancer and heart disease – patients for whom lifesaving techniques he was trained to perform often only prolonged suffering. Emergency rooms are trying to address this issue by utilizing screening tools to identify which patients would be better suited for palliative care.