Saturday, July 19, 2008

Emergency Begets Emergencies

Have you been to an emergency room lately? You have if you need medical attention outside of regular doctor's hours. Just like crime never sleeps, life-threatening medical conditions can develop at any time.

Good luck if your appendix bursts after 6:00 p.m., or you break a leg on the weekend. You have to get in line at the emergency room, waiting with all the other people who have cut themselves, had heart attacks, received accidental burns, or were victims of assault. Once the triage nurse has stabilized you, it's time for a very long wait.

Faced with these hordes of patients, the staff at the emergency room faces increasing pressure to hustle patients through treatment so that they can free up more rooms and beds. They don't want to get into details, or hold your hand along the way, they want to get you back in shape to get you out the door, ASAP.
Is it any wonder, then, that the majority of patients hustled through the emergency room have no idea what to do next?

The Annals of Emergency Medicine have published a study by the University of Michigan Health System showing that more than three quarters of patients discharged from emergency rooms have no idea how to continue their treatment. Should they schedule an appointment with a doctor? Will it clear up on its own? The scary part was that of the people who said they were sure of what the doctor told them were actually remembering things incorrectly.

The next time you need medical attention, you're better off waiting until you can schedule a regular doctor's visit.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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