Dr. Eric Forsthoefel recently talked to a newspaper about the dangers of overcrowded emergency rooms in the state of Florida. The longtime ER doctor says that more patients are using the emergency room for non-urgent care. There are a variety of intriguing reasons as to why this is happening.
First off, the dangers of ER overcrowding should be understood. People that show up to the emergency room for non-emergency injuries or ailments simply get in the way. Physicians need to tend to these non-critical patients as well as nursing and supporting staffs. This can make it very difficult for the ER staff to prioritize care and someone with a real emergency may suffer a bit longer than need be.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel is careful to note that he wants his ER’s door open to everyone. He doesn’t care about a particular patient’s circumstance because he and his staff are determined to treat everyone. He also points to the dangers of trying to shut people out of the ER. This can actually kill people. But there must be a solution to this emerging problem.
It turns out that the vast majority of people using the ER for non-urgent care are insured. In fact, 80% of the non-critical patients in an emergency room already have health insurance. And this statistic is further complicated Medicaid, primary physician availability and personal circumstances.
Oftentimes, primary care physicians do not pick up Medicaid recipients as patients. This could be motivated by profit or it could be motivated by the attention requirements of the chronically ill patient. This forces Medicaid recipients to use the emergency room as their primary point of care. While Medicaid covers co-pays for both primary physicians and ER visits, the insurance does not cover costs for visits with a specialist. Going directly to the ER is a way to circumvent these costs.
Many people turn to the ER because they lack personal transportation. Bus and train lines often have stops at hospitals making them easily accessible. Many of the offices for primary care physicians are inaccessible through public transportation. This forces those who lack transportation means to go straight to the ER for care, according to Dr. Eric Forsthoefel.
And many insured patients find it difficult to schedule an appointment with their own doctor. Most primary care physicians keep office hours from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. which conflicts with the patient’s work days. Scheduling an appointment has become increasingly difficult, as well. Physicians may not be available for weeks and visiting the ER solves an immediate health solution.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel believes that the key to making emergency rooms safer is to make primary medical services more available with expanded hours, easier scheduling and accessibility.