Having myself working in the ER, Sorry but this is my pet-peeve...
Americans are going to the emergency room (ER) in increasing numbers just as the number of ER’s nationwide has decreased and the remaining facilities are experiencing record patient loads. According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics the increase in patient visits is primarily from the poor and the uninsured. Increased demand and decreased supply has led to overcrowding, longer wait times and rising health care costs for everyone.
The CDC reports that there is a clear correlation between income levels and a tendency to seek treatment in emergency departments which ultimately is costly for hospitals, which in turn causes costs to rise for individuals and insurance companies.
Many people turn to the ER if they do not have insurance because they know that the ER won’t (and can’t) turn them away. This adds to the non-urgent caseload for ER’s, which impacts the wait times for emergency and non-emergent cases alike.
The ER is the most expensive way to receive care. Because of the nature of staffing an Emergency Department for any type of emergency at any hour of the day receiving care at these facilities is costly to both individuals and insurers. This is why many insurance policies have substantially higher co-payments for an ER visit as a financial deterrent.
In this environment of healthcare reform the unnecessary use of our ER’s needs to be assessed. In the meanwhile, there are strategies everyone can use to not overwhelm the system and achieve more cost efficient and timely treatment for medical conditions.
Think Urgent when it is not emergent
There are many medical conditions that can safely be treated at an urgent care center or even the new breed of retail clinics. These centers are often conveniently located in local shopping centers and have extended night and weekend hours. The cost of treatment at an urgent care center is significantly less and the wait time and time for treatment can be substantially lower.
Symptoms appropriate for treatment in an Urgent Care Center:
Cuts and lacerations
Sprains and strains
Urinary tract infections
Vomiting and diarrhea
Flu like symptoms
Remember the Emergency Room is not your primary care provider. Call your doctor’s office if you have doubts about where to be seen. Most physician offices have protocol on what they will treat and what they will send to the ER.
Reasons to go directly to the Emergency Room:
New onset seizures
Chest pain (suspected heart attack)