One-fifth of patients coming to the ED did not have conditions requiring emergency care

As a follow-up to what I wrote last week on the ER stories near Boston comes this report. Most of it we know already, but it’s nice to see some concrete data:

One-fifth of patients coming to the ED did not have conditions requiring emergency care, and another one-fifth had urgent conditions that could have been treated in a primary care setting, the report shows.

Uninsured and Medicaid patients in some communities might have to wait six months or more for an appointment with a specialist. But if they go to an ED, they get all their needs met in one place at any time.

“The convenience of the emergency department really offsets the long waits that are associated with it” . . .

The last point has resonance. The key is primary care and specialist access. When I work in ED fast-track, there is a good proportion who come in for medication refills and the like – simply because they can’t contact nor see their primary care physician.

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