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Hot Topic (4/1): Do people use the Emergency Room inappropriately?

 As moms our children's health is important.  We all agree about that. 

However, often even insured moms take their kids to the Emergency Room when they do not have a true emergency.  The California Health Care Foundation says: 

One of the key challenges facing emergency departments (EDs) nationwide is a marked increase in use, driven primarily by insured patients who do not have true emergencies. With the troubling trend in California of emergency room closures, it is important to examine the factors that lead to inappropriate emergency room use.

Have you ever gone to the Emergency Room when you didn't have a true emergency?  Why do you think people do so?  Do you consider it a problem or just inevitable considering the state of the health care system?


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by on Apr. 1, 2009 at 1:46 AM
Replies (21-30):
by Bronze Member on Apr. 1, 2009 at 8:46 PM

I have seen it abused. I live in CA, and I see too many medicaid patients coming into the ER for things they could have gone to the local urgent care (which we have here) and/or their doctor. ER visits are free for them, so they come in as it is easier than waiting for an appointment. Many of them want medications (pain meds, cold medications, etc) so they know the ER doctor will write them a prescription. I think medicaid should charge patients a $15 dollar copayment. I think people would really think hard about whether or not it was an emergency.

2egbhgx.jpg Eleanor Roosevelt image by whatadollx3

A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have. -Barry Goldwater

by on Apr. 1, 2009 at 9:10 PM

I have gone to the ER once when it was not a true emergency. When i'm pregnant I get UTI's and they can be dangerous when you are pregnant. I called my old OB and he would not get me in. I tried the next day, they said go to the ER so I did. I was in severe pain and I had to wait 2 hours just to get anti-biotics.

A lot of people go because they don't have insurance or because they are paranoid. Where I live there is a shortage of doctors, believe it or not. Also they just built a Urgent Care Center, you can't go there if you have medicaid and some types of insurance including our type. It costs 200 to go there and you pay up front at a ER you don't pay p front.

I think there should be more Urgent Care Centers and if more doctor offices offered payment plans then maybe ER's wouldn't fill up, I didn't have insurance for awhile and we had to pay out of pocket and it sucked. I think that may help the system but everyone is too money hungry so doctors don't offer plans like that. 

Have you ever gone to the Emergency Room when you didn't have a true emergency? Why do you think people do so? Do you consider it a problem or just inevitable considering the state of the health care system?

*Happily Married and proud mommy of a toddler and infant*


by on Apr. 1, 2009 at 9:21 PM

My husband is an ER RN and complains about the ridiculous stuff he sees. Like people will go in for a runny nose or something that can be taken care of at home. Or when they are there, they demand food or something to drink from him. It's an emergency room, you don't get food! So, yes, the ER is used inappropriately.

by on Apr. 1, 2009 at 10:31 PM

My DBF is a paramedic and OMG at the ER abuse that goes on!  The ER is for things that can't wait.  People with minor conditions should go to an urgent care center.  I absolutely HATE waiting in the ER!!! 


by Bronze Member on Apr. 2, 2009 at 9:37 AM

I do agree that hospital ERs are overused. However, if there are no doctors that keep late hours or a 24 hour non emergency clinic, then you have no choice but to go to the ER if it's after office hours.

I have only taken my ds to the hospital twice since he was born (he's 10 months). Once it was because he had gotten a cold that lasted for more than 2 weeks and one night he was having a really hard time breathing. It was about 8pm on a Saturday, so there were no doctors offices open. I took him to the ER (after calling his ped first) and it turned out that he had RSV that had turned into pneumonia and bronchitis. The other time was when he was about 2 weeks old. I gave him a bottle of soy formula (he drank 6 ozs) and was having huge explosions from both ends (sorry, TMI) every 20 minutes or so for over 5 hours afterwards and wouldn't eat anything else after that. I was more concerned about him getting dehydrated than anything else, but I really didn't feel comfortable putting him down to bed with those symptoms. He could have easily spit up and choked in his sleep, especially since it was coming out of his nose and mouth. It later turned out he had a soy protein allergy that caused it.

I don't have insurance, but unless it's something that definately needs to be taken care of, I won't see a doctor for it. About the only thing I have to go to the ER for is when I get an episode of cluster headaches, which is about 2-3 times a year at most. Cluster headaches are about 1000xs worse than ANY migraine. It has been proven that normal OTC and migraine medications do NOT work for them. The only thing that helps relieve the pain in the slightest is actual painkillers. And while essentially that may not be a TRUE emergency to most, it is an emergency for those who suffer from them. And no doctor in my town will see anyone if they don't have insurance (unless they can pay for the visit and any tests upfront). Period. So, the only way for me to get treated and get some relief so that I can at least function is to go to the ER.

Come join my group, The Speakeasy!

by Bronze Member on Apr. 2, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Quoting canthaveboys1:

I always call the patient advisory nurse. If they say go in we go in. Our doctors office also has convenient care they are open until like 9 or 10 so if at all possible we go there its usually an in and out procedure. I hate the er.  



That's a good idea! I too hate the ER. Sometimes just being in there makes you even sicker

by Member on Apr. 2, 2009 at 3:15 PM

my friend doesn't take her kids to the emergency room half the time. she goes to the er a lot though. for stupid things like a headache, a lump she thinks she has, or even the color of her pee or vomit (and that is not a joke that is literally). yes though i think its dumb that people go to the er for a small cut or a child vomiting, if your really take them to an urgency care center it'll cost your insurance company a whole lot less.

by Member on Apr. 2, 2009 at 3:26 PM

I think there is a segment of the population that does misuse the ER system.

Here is an article that highlights and discusses how 9 people in the state of Texas used the ER 2,700 times last year. That just 9 people in 1 state. Imagine what the numbers would be for every single state.


AUSTIN, Texas – Just nine people accounted for nearly 2,700 of the emergency room visits in the Austin area during the past six years at a cost of $3 million to taxpayers and others, according to a report. The patients went to hospital emergency rooms 2,678 times from 2003 through 2008, said the report from the nonprofit Integrated Care Collaboration, a group of health care providers who care for low-income and uninsured patients.

"What we're really trying to do is find out who's using our emergency rooms ... and find solutions," said Ann Kitchen, executive director of the group, which presented the report last week to the Travis County Healthcare District board.

The average emergency room visit costs $1,000. Hospitals and taxpayers paid the bill through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, Kitchen said.

Eight of the nine patients have drug abuse problems, seven were diagnosed with mental health issues and three were homeless. Five are women whose average age is 40, and four are men whose average age is 50, the report said, the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday.

"It's a pretty significant issue," said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, chief of the emergency department at University Medical Center at Brackenridge, which has the busiest ERs in the area.

Solutions include referring some frequent users to mental health programs or primary care doctors for future care, Ziebell said.

"They have a variety of complaints," he said. With mental illness, "a lot of anxiety manifests as chest pain

Read more:


Abuse/Misuse of the ER system cost tax payers and insurance holders millions upon millions of dollars a year.

This is an invevitable problem with they healthcare system we have in our country at this time.  People who are under insured or not insured at all, go to the ER with problems/symptoms/illnesses that would be best cared for during an office visit. However, with out insurance (or being uninsured) many can not go to the doctor for these issues. So they go to the ER, overload ER, rack up bills that are much higher than they would be at a general practioners office, and on top of it, do not receive the follow up care (in many cases, especially with minor illnesses) that may be needed. ER does not provide follow up care, you are told when you leave to see your Primary for a follow up on the treatment(s)/diagnosis that was given at the ER.

Many of these incidents and issues that go along with them. Would drop dramatically if more people had access to basic & preventative healthcare. Will there still be people who abuse/misuse the system, of course there will always be who will do this. But overall, these problems would decrease.


by Silver Member on Apr. 2, 2009 at 3:31 PM

I worked in an ER as a Nurse Tech (YEARS ago)- YES they are overused and misused. However we knew that going in, so we did our best. It will never change.

by New Member on Apr. 2, 2009 at 3:50 PM

I've been to the ER 4 times in the last year.  All emergancies though.  I hemmoraged acouple days after have my DD, my DS had to haev stitches, I had to have my gallbladder out, and my DD had a fever of 104.3 on a saturday at midnight so I couldnt get into the doctor. 

I agree though, it is over-used.  There was a woman there last time I went with my DD and she was trying to get pain pills.  They had to have the police come and make her leave.  It was horrible to see especially since there were children around. 

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