By Dr. Alan Pitt
In a WSJ article entitled “Why ER Visits for Non-Emergencies Aren’t Going Away,” Dr. Paul Auerbach, a teaching professor of Emergency Medicine at Stanford’s School of Medicine, summarizes some of the critical factors contributing to and causing over utilization within emergency departments. As outlined by Dr. Auerbach, emergency departments are currently a necessary part of American healthcare. However, active marketing of hospital emergency departments as “America’s clinic”—seems ill conceived. To understand why, let’s look at the emergency room experience from all sides: that of the patient, the provider, and the hospital.
The Patient’s Perspective
Although policy makers and insurers would like to believe otherwise, when you’re sick, injured or in pain, you’re not in a frame of mind to make rational decisions about the lowest cost, highest quality provider. Patients want answers and reassurance as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, access to prompt care has become a real issue. Often people prefer to pay a convenience charge (or they don’t pay) to be seen immediately rather than wait weeks (or even months). Emergency physicians often provide such instant gratification, but they are not equipped to deliver long-term solutions. [Read more…]