Emergency rooms exist so people can have their urgent health issues addressed promptly. While not all issues’ symptoms are life-threatening, waiting just minutes longer for emergency healthcare services in certain situations can result in serious injuries or even death. As such, emergency rooms’ widespread availability across the United States is undeniably positive for the welfare of people living in – or simply visiting – the US.
Too many people use the emergency room
That’s right – too many people visit the emergency room here in the United States. This isn’t because people in the United States are inherently unhealthy or there are tons of traumatic events that cause serious injuries; rather, people turn to the emergency room because they’re more convenient than seeing primary care providers, ER departments are legally required to see patients, and waiting for appointments are “regular” doctors’ offices can take weeks.
The overuse of emergency rooms here in the United States is a systemic issue
Anywhere between 30 and 40 percent of an area’s constituents regularly – or somewhat regularly, at least – see emergency room doctors. According to a February 2016 survey titled “Patients’ Perspectives on Health Care in the United States” published by National Public Radio in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard University’s School of Public Health, roughly one of every three Americans see an emergency room physician when they’re in need of medical treatment.
A 2014 meta-analysis called “Emergency Department Visits for Nonurgent Conditions: Systematic Literature Review” used data from 1990 to determine just how many emergency room visits saw patients who were not considered to be in need of urgent care. Entered into the American Journal of Managed Care, roughly 37 percent of trips to emergency rooms across the United States were made by patients who didn’t need urgent care.
Florida’s emergency rooms are seen by patients with non-urgent symptoms as often as any other state
According to Robert Blendon, a full professor at Harvard University, just short of 33 percent of Floridians had visited an emergency room for a non-urgent healthcare issue throughout the two years before the 2016 interview conducted by Abe Boraya, a reporter working with a Florida-based National Public Radio affiliate.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel, an emergency room doctor in Tallahassee, Florida, recently shared that people frequent the emergency room at the hospital he works at for non-urgent issues – no hospital’s emergency department is free from seeing patients without urgent presentations of symptoms.
Dr. Forsthoefel firmly believes that this issue needs to be fixed because people in need of prompt care typically have to wait longer to get the help they need. Further, the resources of emergency department staffs around the United States are routinely stretched beyond what they can handle. Lines in emergency rooms are rarely consistent; staffing more people in anticipation of long lines at emergency departments would invariably result in avoidable losses for hospitals, Dr. Eric Forsthoefel claims.