Dr. Eric Forsthoefel has been an emergency room physician in Tallahassee, Florida, for years. He is trying to confront one of the biggest problems facing healthcare today. He sees a startling trend of Americans using the emergency room for non-urgent care.
He says that the reasons for this are varied. It seems that wealthy individuals use the emergency room for non-urgent care in order to receive medical care right away. Essentially, high-income Americans tend to use the emergency room for convenience in lieu of going through the hassle of scheduling an appointment with their primary physicians.
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— Eric Forsthoefel (@EForsthoefel) July 20, 2018
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel says that this points to the larger problem. He believes that primary care physicians could take steps to reduce the number of people using the emergency room for non-emergency situations. He believes that if primary care physicians made themselves more readily available that high-income Americans would not use the emergency room for convenience. He believes the number of people using the emergency room for non-urgent care could be greatly reduced if primary care physicians made themselves available in the evenings.
The emergency room physician points to the fact that low-income Americans use the emergency room because they have no other way to receive treatment. He points to a scary trend by health insurance companies that is sweeping the nation. He says more and more health insurance companies are declining to cover non-emergency care received in the emergency room. This could have disastrous consequences, he warns.
He believes that anybody walking into an emergency room should receive quality care. It doesn’t matter to him how emergent their situation is. He believes everybody has the right to receive high-quality care from physicians, nurses and supporting staff. This open door policy promotes people getting the care they need when they need it. Dr. Eric Forsthoefel suggests that this open door policy actually saves lives.
But he believes that lives will be lost if health insurance companies continue to decline non-urgent care received in the emergency room. This, according to the doctor, could it deter people from receiving the medical care that they need. At best, it will lead to unneeded suffering. At worst, it will lead to unnecessary death.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel likes to mention a hypothetical situation. Just imagine a man experiencing chest pains. Now imagine learning that the man just enjoyed a spicy buffet dinner. These chest pains could simply be the adverse effects of enjoying the spicy dinner. But the pains could also signal an impending heart attack.
Now the doctor would like you to imagine that the man does not have health insurance. He could die if he stays away from the emergency room for fear of high bills. Of course, his chest pains could just be heartburn. But having a deterrent to visiting the emergency room could prove fatal for our imaginary man.