A growing problem in this country, and especially in Florida, is the fact that patients are burdening emergency rooms for non-emergency ailments. For at least a few decades, this has always been a growing trend and is only worsening with an increase in the country’s population. The American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC) had published an in-depth report showing patient data an non-emergency cases.
According to the medical veteran, Dr. Eric Forsthoefel, emergency rooms may be abused by those that lack health insurance. Emergency rooms are equipped with the latest equipment and expert staff, which tends to each patient regardless of their urgency. In the case of frivolous patients, it is an exhaustion of resources and effort by the emergency room team.
In a country that provides socialized health care, non-urgent cases could have been dealt with local clinics rather than the last resort. Considering the high costs of medical staff in the United States, the cost of frivolous cases in emergency rooms burdening the private medical system.
The reasoning of why patients choose to use the emergency room over traditional care may vary, but the immediate financial matter is likely to be the case. A study completed by the Annals of Emergency Medicine reflected that many patients with minor illnesses thought that they would save time by instead using the emergency rooms. Even with high-income patients that were sometimes the case.
It is also evident that younger patients are more likely to seek out an emergency room for minor complaints. It may be due to a lack of experience with illnesses or the fact that many are without insurance. Unemployment is also a contributing factor.
Some suggestions from the medical community are being considered at a national level, such as adding copays to emergency room visits. This case may be unlikely since it has the potential to bar low-income patients from going to the emergency room when it is sincerely a grave situation. The JAMA Internal Medicine had analyzed adding copays to patients with Medicare is select locations and it had a very little effect on non-essential emergency room visits.
The Washington Post had analyzed that Medicare users were three times more likely to use the emergency room than those paying for insurance. Basic treatments for infections, asthma attacks, and routine testing were the majority of such cases. At the very least, Medicare will be able to offload the losses taken by hospitals in these cases.
More about Dr. Eric Forsthoefel
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel is an ER doctor from the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Hospital. He was educated at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine and has several years of experience in the harsh conditions of Florida’s emergency rooms.