Almost 40% of Emergency Room visits in our region are potentially avoidable. A new study looks at the numbers and those who come in for trauma, mental health issues, or chemical dependency aren't included. Those are considered unavoidable trips. However, trips for more minor issues like a cold or back pain are situations where a patient could avoid a trip to the E.R. Leaving the E.R. open to most serious situations means patients who really need E.R. services can get them fast.
Dr. Frank Dubeck of Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield says, "Sometimes the E.R. is on what we call 'bypass' and so all the ambulances are alerted, but they don't take anyone here. That doesn't mean a runny nose can't walk into the E.R., but if it's on bypass, it could be 4 or 5 hours before you get attention. You'll get triage to make sure that you're not dying or anything but it'll be many hours before you're seen and you probably could have been seen some place faster."
In addition to getting E.R. care to those who need it most, there is also the issue of cost at hand. A service in the Emergency Room costs about 10 times more than that same visit to a regular office. It's a drain on health care dollars and it can also be a waste of resources. Doctors want their patients to know about the proper use of the E.R.
Dr. Dubeck says, "What patients need to know is that primary care doctors are changing some of the ways they practice their medicine to allow more access for same day appointments. So if this is a learned experience because of past behavior it's time to try again."
Studies show 50% of E.R visits occur between 8am and 5pm and the other half between 5pm and 8am the next morning. Patients may have trouble getting in to see their doctor, or they don't have a doctor to turn to because there's a physician shortage for primary care in Oneida county.
"We have high tax structure, we have bad malpractice, we have a bad malpractice environment, and low pay scales, so until we fix those things we're not going to see more doctors."
There's no substitute for seeing your own doctor who knows you. If you're dealing with a minor illness and you can't get in to see your doctor, urgent care is an alternative.