As you drive to work today, take a glance on the corners on your way. You see the traditional fast food restaurants, you’ll see the gas stations and oil change place.
But an ER on every corner? It’s coming. Emergency room facilities are popping up on street corners around the US. We already have “urgent care clinics” popping up as a convenience to us, but why?
Our short attention span society is here and everything is an emergency:
“Oh no, I have a nose bleed, go to a doctor, nah I need the ER!”
“I think I have the flu, I need to go to the ER!”
“I’m so drunk! Maybe I should go to the ER!”
“I can’t take time out of my busy day to make a doctor’s appointment, but there’s blood in my sputum, I need the ER!”
Perhaps on the last one you might need to be checked for TB but I digress. The nation’s emergency rooms are choked with non emergency cases every year. A study was done by the University of Colorado School of Medicine which discussed the acuity and access of emergency departments in 2011. ¹ This study showed patients with Medicare/Medicaid used emergency departments more than those who had private insurance. According to a 2011 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey by the CDC ² an estimated 136.3 million emergency department visits occurred to short stay and general hospitals in the US. Only 35% of these visitors had private insurance. The rest were a combination of Medicaid/Chip/Medicare or no insurance at all. Patients considered the emergency room as their primary care physician because hospital emergency departments are required by federal law to provide care to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.
But emergency centers are popping up on street corners around the United States as a way of providing health care, and the inherent profits within, to the under served.
It also allows centers to be placed in more affluent areas that for convenience and for a price, the hospital emergency department can be avoided.
Will this trend continue? As long as it is profitable for doctors to provide services without the bureaucracy of a hospital and they continue to be paid by Medicare / Medicaid, doctors will ring the cash register.
I feel something coming on. (cough, cough, I’m sick.)
¹ Capp, Roberta, et al. “National study of health insurance type and reasons for emergency department use.” Journal of general internal medicine 29.4 (2014): 621-627.
² “Ambulatory Health Care Data.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 July 2014. Web. 11 Aug. 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/ahcd/factsheets.htm#2011>.