Dr. Eric Forsthoefel has worked as a prominent emergency room physician and has spoken openly about the toll that limited access to primary care is taking on the resources of hospital emergency rooms across the U.S. He is shedding light on an important trend in the health care industry of patients who do not have adequate access to primary care options or medical insurance coverage seeing emergency rooms as the only viable option for receiving medical care. This means that uninsured patients are visiting emergency rooms even when they are not suffering from a true medical emergency. Dr. Eric Forsthoefel hit the nail on the head by explaining that emergency room staff never turn patients away, but they are being hit with an overwhelming challenge of serving an increasing number of patients without a commensurate increase in resources.
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— Eric Forsthoefel (@EForsthoefel) July 20, 2018
Recent data shows that more than one-third of the patients who visit the emergency room do not actually require immediate medical attention. Rather than brushing this trend off as an indication that patients are over-exaggerating their injuries, a closer look at the data reveals that patients on Medicaid are most likely to fall into the category of frequent fliers at emergency rooms across the country. Dr. Eric Forsthoefel notes that many primary care providers in certain areas do not accept patients on Medicaid, which leaves those patients with few places to turn in times of injury. Another reason why emergency rooms have become the popular choice for those on Medicaid is because they are likely not subjected to a co-pay for any specialty services they might receive while there. Medical bills are one of the primary reasons that many Americans file for bankruptcy.
One of the ways that Dr. Eric Forsthoefel sees the system reaching a more balanced dynamic is by increasing the number of non-urgent care facilities available in all communities. This includes facilities that are open outside of normal business hours when a primary care physician might be unavailable to see patients. Insurance providers will have to accommodate these types of facilities in making co-payments affordable for their insured in order for this model to be effective. Alternatively, Dr. Eric Forsthoefel suggests that primary care physicians should consider providing more evening hours for patients so that they can receive the medical attention they need in a timely manner. Otherwise, patients will feel that the only way they can get responsive care is by being admitted to an emergency room. The same is true for weekend schedules at primary care facilities. This trend has taken hold for some pediatric facilities, but many adult patients are still left without options on how to receive non-urgent medical care outside of regular business hours.