WASHINGTON -- Illinois ranked near the bottom of the nation at 45th place with a D in the 2014 American College of Emergency Physicians' (ACEP) state-by-state report card on America's emergency care environment. It's a striking decline from the 27th place and grade C it received in 2009.
"Illinois' failing grade in the Disaster Preparedness category is a call to action," said Dr. Edward Ward, president of the Illinois Chapter of ACEP. "Our policymakers must focus on raising our disaster preparedness efforts to achieve the gold standard set by Boston after the Marathon bombing."
Illinois 43rd in the nation in the category of Disaster Preparedness, reflecting that the state has not kept pace with other states' efforts to update their disaster policies and procedures. According to the Report Card, to improve this grade, Illinois should work to increase the per capita number of physicians, nurses and behavioral health professionals registered in the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals, which are currently among the lowest in the nation. In addition, improvements in the state's medical liability environment are recommended to encourage more participation in this disaster response registry.
Illinois' best grade was a C+ in the category of Quality and Patient Safety Environment. The state's strengths in this area include a prescription drug monitoring program and a statewide trauma registry. In addition, Illinois is currently adopting new trauma triage guidelines for pre-hospital and trauma center activation.
The D+ Illinois received in the category of Public Health and Injury Prevention reflects high rates of chronic disease and illness, very low rates of immunization and a high rate of binge drinking among adults. By contrast, the state's strong child safety seat and seatbelt laws have resulted in one of the lowest rates of traffic fatalities in the country.
Illinois moved up the ranks from 39th to 24th in the category of Access to Emergency Care, but still only received a D. The state increased the number of emergency physicians, neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons and nurses since 2009, but dwindling Medicaid reimbursement rates threaten access to care for the state's Medicaid patients. To improve access to primary care for these patients, Illinois policymakers must increase Medicaid payments.
The state's failing grade for Medical Liability Environment, for which it was ranked 50th in the nation, is largely due to significant setbacks that left Illinois virtually without medical liability reforms in place to discourage frivolous lawsuits. Average insurance premiums for primary care physicians are the second highest in the nation.
"Our state continues to be a medico-legally difficult enviroment for medical professionals which increases the risk of our losing qualified physicians and medical professionals to other states" said Dr. Ward. "This threatens access to care for our patients in Illinois every day but especially during a mass casualty event."
"America's Emergency Care Environment: A State-by-State Report Card -- 2014" evaluates conditions under which emergency care is being delivered, not the quality of care provided by hospitals and emergency providers. It has 136 measures in five categories: access to emergency care (30 percent of the grade), quality and patient safety (20 percent), medical liability environment (20 percent), public health and injury prevention (15 percent) and disaster preparedness (15 percent). While America earned an overall mediocre grade of C- on the Report Card issued in 2009, this year the country received a near-failing grade of D+.
ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.