Apparently, 9 patients in Texas, the majority of whom had mental health issues, visited the emergency department nearly 3,000 times during the past 6 years.
Many of those visits were due to non-emergency causes, and it is speculated that these patients’ mental health history played a role, as this physician comments, “They have a variety of complaints, [and] a lot of anxiety manifests as chest pain.”
The proposed solutions, however, are not ground-breaking, and include “referring some frequent users to mental health programs or primary care doctors so they would go there first in the future.”
Mental health and primary care access are scarce resources, and patients who have chest discomfort often cannot wait for an appointment with a primary care doctor, and thus, head straight to the hospital. Combined with the fact that Texas has one of the largest proportion of uninsured patients, it becomes obvious why some choose to use emergency services.
Although these numbers may seem shocking, I’d bet that many doctors aren’t surprised at all.