The recent article “The Impact of Non-Urgent Care on Florida Emergency Rooms” written by Amanda Moore and published by the Miami Patch reveals the consistent pressure on emergency rooms to care for non-urgent healthcare issues.
The article indicates that emergency rooms have been dealing with non-urgent care since the 1990’s. More than thirty percent of Americans claim that they have been to the ER for problems that could have been cared for by their primary care physicians. Dr. Eric Forsthoefel, an ER physician in Florida, indicates that he too has seen hundreds of patients who could have gone to their primary care doctor. Part of the issue is that emergency rooms will treat an issue regardless of its urgency. This can cause patient flow issues because the medicine and the focus of the medical staff are being given to those who are not emergencies.
Dr. Forsthoefel reveals that he understands a large part of why people come into the emergency room when they need a doctor’s care is simply because there are many barriers in the current healthcare system. Many studies have shown that people with chronic or non-emergent conditions will seek out the physicians in the ER because they are afraid it will take too long to get an appointment with a primary care physician. Another possible cause is that sometimes it is difficult to decide whether a healthcare issue is an emergency or not.
Insurance companies, like Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, are ceasing their coverage of emergency care in various states because they believe many people are using ERs inappropriately. Physicians reveal this new plan can be incredibly dangerous if a patient becomes worried about having to pay for the visit completely out of pocket. This may deter people from seeking emergency care when they need it most. However, those insured by Medicaid will seek out emergency rooms for care even when it isn’t urgent because they are often plagued with more physical ailments and need a higher level of care.
Dr. Forsthoefel is an emergency room physician in Tallahassee, Florida. He studied religious studies at Florida State University before he went on to get his MD from the University of Louisville School of Medicine.