Dr. Eric Forsthoefel thinks we need to stop advertising wait times in emergency rooms. You may have seen a billboard on the side of the road that displays the wait time in minutes with an LED clock. You might even catch the billboard changing times as you drive by.
Dr. Eric Forsthoefel believes these advertisements encourage people to use the ER as they would their primary physician. He has seen a precipitous rise in the number of people receiving primary care at his ER in Florida. He doesn’t shy away from these patients. Instead, he treats them with dignity and respect. He also instructs his staff to treat them completely before they leave the ER.
Therein lies the rub. Dr. Eric Forsthoefel is determined to treat every person that walks into his ER but he knows the dangers that these patients are creating. An overcrowded ER becomes more and more difficult to manage. He and his staff become stretched thin as they try to administer primary care to non-urgent patients while simultaneously administering emergency care to critical patients. This juggling act can only go on so long before someone gets hurt, says Dr. Eric Forsthoefel.
The doctor has thought long and hard about the problem. And, like any good doctor, he has focused on the facts to come up with this surprisingly easy solution. Unfortunately, it is up to other members of the medical community to execute the solution. It’s out of Dr. Eric Forsthoefel’s hands to clean up his own ER.
His solution — Make primary care physicians more accessible with expanded evening hours and updated office locations. He also wants hospitals to stop advertising ER wait times which trick people into thinking that the ER is open for business.
It comes down to convenience, says Dr. Eric Forsthoefel. More than 80% of non-urgent patients in the emergency room are insured. Insurance and money are not the problems. In fact, uninsured patients dare not step into an emergency room for fear of insurmountable medical bills. This actually kills uninsured people, but that’s another topic for another time.
The problem is convenience. It’s convenience for Medicaid patients as well as the traditionally insured. Medicaid patients find it difficult to find a primary care physician. Many doctors will not take on Medicaid patients which forces them into the ER to receive treatment. And the traditionally insured find the ER to be more convenient than care through a primary physician.
Insured patients like the fact that they can see a specialist during one ER visit. It can take multiple visits to see a similar specialist through a primary doctor. And the insured like the fact that they receive same-day service at the ER.