America’s healthcare system has been no stranger to controversy over the years. A large piece of the current debate pertains to the cost of healthcare – with the finger often pointed at the rising expense of emergency medicine and unnecessary treatments. One of the goals of the new healthcare overhaul is to lessen this burden with more access to primary care physicians. Another proposed solution is to make patients front the cost for any inappropriate use of the emergency room.
A recent study published by the Journal of American Medicine fails to find support for the latter proposal. The study compared patients’ presenting complaints to their ultimate discharge diagnosis. Only 6% of patients who presented to the E.R. were deemed to be “inappropriate users” based off their discharge diagnosis. Unfortunately, over 90% of the 6% had the same chief complaints as patients admitted for hospital treatment.
An age old adage comes to mind here – hindsight is 20/20. It is unlikely that a patient can be deemed to be an “inappropriate user” of emergency medicine based solely off of their discharge diagnosis.