There is a popular collective image of an American emergency room. You see it all the time in movies. The waiting room is full of unsavory characters and low-income individuals with absolutely absurd injuries. Some of them look mighty painful.
You’d likely revert to this image if I told you that our emergency room system is being overrun. According to Dr. Eric Forsthoefel, there are simply too many people coming into emergency rooms across the country. This is stretching emergency room staffs thin as they attempt to prioritize care. It’s becoming a real problem that needs to be addressed for the safety of everyone that may need to use of an emergency room.
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— Eric Forsthoefel (@EForsthoefel) July 20, 2018
Unfortunately, that popular collective image of an emergency room teeming with dirty poor people belies the truth. The real culprit, accord to research and anecdotes from Dr. Eric Forsthoefel, are middle- to high-income individuals who already have health insurance.
That’s right, those with health insurance are flooding the emergency rooms across the country looking for routine care. About one-third of Americans have used the emergency room for medical situations that aren’t exactly an emergency. And 80% of those people are either middle- or high-income patients that already have healthcare. So how so we explain this emergency room abuse and how do we stop it?
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel, an ER physician based out of Tallahassee, Florida, thinks he has the answer. It all comes down to convenience, he says. Privileged individuals are putting a burden on our emergency rooms just so they can get care easier. These patients have expressed frustration with their own primary care physicians.
Primary physicians are a difficult bunch to get a hold of, according to these middle- and high-income patients. They say it is difficult to make an appointment with their doctors. Primary care physicians keep hours that coincide with the normal workday and some of them are booked for weeks. Many other physicians require notice 24 hours ahead of time.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel thinks that primary care doctors should keep hours that make them accessible to the working public. Evening hours would go a long way in meeting the needs of the patients in question. He believes that some primary care doctors should even keep late-night or overnight hours just like the emergency room.
This increase in convenience should direct the flow of non-emergency patients back to their primary care doctors which will ease the burden on emergency rooms, according to Dr. Eric Forsthoefel.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel also believes in treating everyone in the ER no matter their ailment. He doesn’t think hospitals or insurance companies should create deterrents even though the ER system is worn thin. This could spell doom for low-income patients.