It seems to be a country wide epidemic----wait times at emergency rooms have increased dramatically. Some doctors feel not every ER patient needs the services they provide. "I think the expectations of patients have changed over the twenty-five years I've been doing this. There are people that medically do not need the services an emergency room provides and I'd estimate that to be 20%-30% of the patients we see it the emergency department." In the Utica/North Country Region there are over 150,000 potentially avoidable ER visits each year and Excellus Bluecross Blueshield is trying to help prevent those visits. "The whole thrust of this is to educate the public that there are other alternatives, ideally first your primary care physician, there are urgent care facilities around who can treat many of the minor things almost as good as a primary care doctor but nothings better than the doc who knows you." Doctor Dubeck says people often come to the e-r with minor ailments such as earaches or sore throats. These types of avoidable visits end up costing not only time but money for everyone. "To treat routine conditions in the ER is a costly, wasteful pattern of behavior. Not only does it waste the patients time because if they're not real sick they're going to get bumped back and spend 4 hours in the waiting room. But 2 to be treated in the ER costs are often ten times as much as what it would take to treat you in a primary care office." So, setting up a doctor's appointment and avoiding the e-r whenever possible is better for the hospital, your neighbors and yourself.