According to research conducted over 14 years, an average of 47.7 percent of all medical care in the United States was from the emergency rooms of the nation’s hospitals. This means that whenever someone in the U.S. needs medical attention, half of them head straight to the E.R.
Although there are times when you should genuinely go to the emergency room, sometimes people tend to panic and go there anyway for the most minor of injuries and conditions. This can have a seriously adverse effect on providing medical attention to those who truly need it first.
Overcrowding in the ER
Emergency room overcrowding can have some serious effects on how hospitals operate, and they’re complicated enough as it is. Even with competent medical billing and coding services, medical facilities need breathing room to operate efficiently.
The first issue is perhaps the most obvious. Overcrowding an emergency room means patients have to wait longer before they can see a medical professional. These nurses and doctors would have to first carefully assess each patient to determine if they require urgent attention or if they can be sent to another department. Meanwhile, people who may truly need immediate attention have to undergo stress and long waiting times.
The second affects the patients themselves. An emergency room visit can be more expensive than regular hospital visits. A study revealed that wasteful emergency room visit accounts for approximately $38 billion every year. That’s a lot of money that could be going elsewhere.
Finally, hospitals are forced to stretch their resources and even refuse patients. Ambulances will be diverted away from hospitals with overcrowded emergency rooms, which could prove fatal for the patients aboard.
So what can you do to alleviate the burden on the hospital’s emergency rooms? The best method is to know when you need to go there in the first place.
A Quick Medical Emergency Guide
There are three rough groupings of medical emergencies and what level of medical intervention needs to be done.
The first and most serious group is those that need immediate intervention from an emergency medical team. In these instances, calling 911 or a local equivalent is the first and immediate option. Signs of when you should call 911 include but are not limited to the following:
- Someone could die or suffer a permanent injury or disability.
- Someone is choking or has stopped breathing.
- A head injury has rendered someone unconscious or confused.
- A neck or spinal injury has caused paralysis or inability to move.
- An electric shock, like from an appliance or lightning.
- Severe burn injuries
- Severe pain or pressure to the chest
- A lengthy seizure, lasting from 3 to 5 minutes.
The following are instances when you should go to an emergency room. Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Difficulty breathing.
- A deep wound.
- Serious burn injuries.
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
- Continuous diarrhea or vomiting.
- Bloody vomit or cough.
- Smoke or fume inhalation.
- Any wound or injury that’s bleeding heavily.
- Broken bones, especially if the bone has broken skin.
- High fever.
- Persistent dizziness or weakness.
These lists and the criteria for when you should call emergency services and go to an emergency room differ from each case. If the possibility of permanent disability or imminent death is high, call 911. If the patient in question is severely debilitated but can manage vehicular travel, take them to the ER.
Using your judgment wisely and consulting with medical professionals can help alleviate the burden on the nation’s emergency rooms.