One of the biggest issues regarding modern healthcare is emergency rooms are being used for non-urgent care. Approximately one third of Americans visit emergency rooms for medical care even if it is not an emergency. Florida is in the national average for these visits. Dr. Eric Forsthoefel works as an emergency physician in Florida and has seen hundreds of cases that were not emergencies come through the trauma and emergency center. He believes this is because there is not enough access to primary care. Every patient is provided with a physician, support staff, techs, nurses and a bed. This volume makes it difficult to manage resources and emergency medical crises.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel has spoken of the difficulty in maintaining the patient flow due to non-urgent cases. His opinion corresponds with numerous studies revealing some patients do not have insurance where others have a high income but are unwilling to wait for a primary care appointment. The emergency department is convenient and eliminates an average of a 24 hour wait for a primary care physician. Additional studies show men are more likely than women to go to the emergency room for a non-urgent issue. Some experts believe the deductibles and copays could be changed as a deterrent to visiting the emergency room when the issue is not urgent. Unfortunately, this would disproportionately affect individuals with lower incomes.
Researchers have also revealed a copayment for individuals with Medicaid visiting the emergency room was ineffective. Anthem insurance stopped payments in 2015 for non-urgent visits to emergency rooms in Kentucky. In 2017, Missouri and Georgia were added to the list which now includes Ohio, Indiana and New Hampshire. This is referred to as an inappropriate use for emergency rooms. More insurance companies are expected to take the same actions and funding has been pulled by private employers for emergency room non-urgent care. This is intended to save insurance companies money while increasing their profits.
These changes include situations where dangerous medical consequences may be a factor. The issue is many experts believe a patient must be evaluated and examined prior to deciding if the situation is urgent. Some physicians in the emergency room believe this policy will cause the death of some of their patients. Many individuals do not have a way to access a primary care doctor and numerous Medicaid patients are unable to find a provider. The cheapest and easiest way to address a medical issue is by going to the emergency room. This often saves Medicaid patients copays for specialty doctors they are unable to afford.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel’s work in the emergency room makes him well qualified regarding the potential solutions. He realizes one of the main reasons people go to the emergency room is because the majority of primary care doctors are unavailable during the weekend. A lot of physicians believe if doctors extended their hours in the evening it would decrease the number of visits to emergency rooms. This may be the solution since patients do not like the high bills they receive from emergency rooms.