A study recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found emergency department (ED) crowding may cause some heart attack patients to develop symptoms similar to post -traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to an article published in Reuters, the study builds on a previous study that found one in eight heart attack patients develop PTSD symptoms. This latest study examined whether the hospital environment was a factor in the development of the condition. Researchers examined data from medical records and interviews with 135 heart attack patients at a New York City hospital between 2009 and 2011. Patients took a test to measure PTSD symptoms on a scale of 0 to 88. Heart attack patients who were in the ED on the least busy days scored an average of 3 on the test that, while patients who were in the ED on the busiest days scored an 8. Neither group scored high enough to be diagnosed with PTSD, but the difference in the scores was notable. A hospital overcrowding expert, Dr. Benjamin Sun, told Reuters patients are likely picking up on the stress levels of the doctors and nurse practitioners who are treating them. He also estimates that the connection is limited to heart attack patients. The ED crowding problem has gotten worse in the last decade. In the United States, the number of ED visits increased 11%, from 107 million in 2001 to 120 million in 2006. However, during the same period, the number of EDs increased only 4%, from 4,600 to 4,800. With the Affordable Care Act expected to extend healthcare coverage to another 30 million Americans, the ED crowding problem is not likely to go away. Proper staffing levels can go a long way to improving throughput and reducing crowding. At Barton, we have a strong network of locum tenens emergency medicine physicians and nurse practitioners who can help emergency departments manage short and long term staffing needs. Organizations that use Barton Associates ED providers are able to ensure patients have access to high quality care and maximize patient throughput. For more information visit our facilities page.