via Wall Street Journal
Year after year, the emergency department where I practice medicine continues to see more patients. What’s going on? One reason has been identified: no timely access to a primary-care provider. For many patients, the emergency department is their only reliable access to health care. The latest surge is attributed to newly-insured Medicaid patients looking for care and struggling to find it. But that’s only part of the situation.
Limited access has been a constant story line during my 35 years in emergency medicine. Patients are vulnerable—they get hurt; they are old; they are young; they are weak; they are bleeding; they have collapsed. Health-care economists, administrators and process managers opine that patients without “true emergencies” should be directed to family doctors, urgent-care centers and outpatient clinics. Patients are chastised for “unnecessary” visits that can cost thousands of dollars. That might sound reasonable but ignores what patients experience and perceive. Remember: You can’t teach patients economics lessons when they don’t feel well.