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Report finds many emergency room visits are avoidable – ConsumerAffairs

When an accident or injury occurs, its second nature for consumers to go to the emergency room (ER) for treatment. But a new report finds that some of these visits arent necessary or advisable.

In a recent study, researchers from California deemed that 3.5% of all U.S. emergency roomvisits were avoidable. They say that the top three discharge diagnoses were alcohol abuse, dental disorders, and mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. While some of these conditions can be serious, the authors note that the ER is not always necessarily the best place to have them treated.

Our most striking finding is that a significant number of avoidable visits are for conditions the ED is not equipped to treat. Emergency physicians are trained to treat life- and limb-threatening emergencies, making it inefficient for patients with mental health, substance abuse, or dental disorders to be treated in this setting, they said.

The study analyzed over 424 million visits made to emergency departments across the U.S. between 2005 and 2011 for patients aged 18 to 64. Avoidable cases were defined as those that did not require diagnostic or screening services, procedures, or medications, and led to patients being discharged home.

Of these visits, the researchers say that 6.8% were related to alcohol abuse or mood disorders, while 3.9% were connected to disorders with patients teeth or jaws. While the majorityof these visits did warrant emergency attention, the results indicated that 16.9% of mood disorder visits, 10.4% of alcohol-related visits, and 4.9% of tooth and jaw-related visits were avoidable.

While visiting the ER might seem like the safest move, the researchers note that extraneous visits can impact the overall cost of health insurance for all consumers. They believe that their results may indicate a need to increase public access to mental health services and dental care.

Our findings serve as a start to addressing gaps in the US healthcare system, rather than penalizing patients for lack of access, and may be a better step to decreasing avoidable ED visits, the researchers concluded.

The full study has been published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care.

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Only 3% of emergency room visits may truly be avoidable, study … – FierceHealthcare

Though many emergency rooms are overcrowded and some patients may not have urgent needs, just a fraction of visits are truly avoidable, according to a new study.

Researchers examined datafrom the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2005 to 2011 that included more than 115,000 records representing 424 million emergency department visits, and found that only 3.3% were avoidable.The study team defined avoidable visits as thosethat did not require diagnostic tests, screenings, procedures or medications.

A number of these avoidable visits were for concerns that the ER is not equipped to treat, like dental or mental health issues, according to the study. Of the avoidable visits, 6.8% were for alcohol- or mood-related disorders, like depression or anxiety, while 3.9% were for dental conditions.

RELATED:4 strategies to reduce ER overcrowding

The findings, published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care,challenge the commonly held belief that many people visit the ER needlessly, said RebeccaParker, M.D., president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, in an announcement.

Despite a relentless campaign by the insurance industry to mislead policymakers and the public into believing that many ER visits are avoidable, the facts say otherwise, Parker said. Most patients who are in the emergency department belong there and insurers should cover those visits. The myths about unnecessary ER visits are just thatmyths.

RELATED: ER visits offer a teachable moment to reduce drug use

The ER has been a frequent target for initiatives seeking to reduce overuse and the costs associated with emergency care. However, the researchers saidthat their findings point more toward the value in programs to improve patient access to services like mental health and dental care.

The study found that 10.4% of visits from patients with alcohol-related disorders and 16.9% of visits from patients with mood disorders were avoidable, suggesting that policymakers could do more to increase access to the services that would keep those patients out of the ER.

Our findings serve as a start to addressing gaps in the U.S. healthcare system, rather than penalizing patients for lack of access, and may be a better step to decreasing avoidable ED visits, the authors wrote.

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