One of the significant challenges facing the healthcare system in the country is that the ER’s are used for a lot of non-urgent care cases. Research confirms that more than 30 percent of the country’s population goes to the ER for emergency health care services even when their needs are not that urgent. The trend has been noted in several previous reports, showing that it dates back to the 90’s. Dr. Eric Forsthoefel feels that this has become a national problem because the country lacks the proper primary care needed for survival. He adds that in Florida, one in every three patients has admitted to having visited the ER for a non-emergency in the past two years.
Dr. Forsthoefel notes that lack of sufficient primary caregivers is forcing people into emergency rooms where they are attended to by nurses and given bed space. It is the role of nurses and other medical practitioners to attend to patients and provide them with the care which they need. However, when the ER is overused for non-emergency cases, the result is that resources get stretched, which means that few if any remain to cover true emergencies. The absence of the human resources and materials needed to attend to critical emergencies makes practicing medicine tough and often leads to fatalities which could have been avoided.
Reasons behind the trend
The George Washington University conducted a study about the reasons behind people’s preference for the ER over the conventional channels of getting medical care. The most affluent of the people sampled stated that they visited the ER because they thought going to the primary physician would require them to book an appointment, which would take too much time to accomplish. Dr. Forsthoefel states that it is true that primary caregivers will only offer an appointment with a 24-hour notice, and the patients want to address their problems quicker than that. On the other hand, the low-income earners liked the convenience of the emergency room just because they did not have an established relationship with their primary caregivers.
Deterrents for non-urgent ER visits
One of the measures which the system has been trying to enforce to minimize these non-urgent ER visits is deductibles and co-pays. However, Dr. Forsthoefel feels that this is an ill-advised move because it might discourage lower income earners from seeking any medical care at all. Dr. Forsthoefel thinks that the solution lies in reducing the appointment wait time when booking appointments with primary caregivers and having them work on weekends.
Dr. Forsthoefel was a medical student at the University of Louisville before joining the Louisiana State University to complete his residency. He has more than six years of experience in handling Emergency room cases. Currently, he works in Tallahassee, where he attends to patients with cases like trauma, fractures, cardiac distress, and other medical emergencies. He believes that it is possible to address the capacity issues surrounding medical care provision, to minimize the number of regular patients putting a strain on the ER facilities.