The American College of Emergency Physicians finds increased ER use in March poll
Last week, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) released the results of a poll conducted in March that found three-quarters of emergency physicians have seen an increase in emergency room (ER) patient visits since early 2014, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect.
The poll mirrors what had been anticipated by ACEP, as the shortage of primary care doctors continues nationwide. Other root causes – such as some physicians not accepting Medicaid due to lower reimbursement rates; low-income patients’ obstacles to care, such as being unable to take time off work to seek care during regular clinic hours; and long waits for appointments with primary care physicians who are able to see new patients – have also been cited as contributing to the increase.
ACEP President Mike Gerardi also acknowledged that some people come to the ER for problems that would be better handled in a primary or urgent care office.
That conclusion echoed what the Alliance found in our region. In our report, “Right Care, Right Setting: A Report on Potentially Avoidable Emergency Room Visits in Washington State,” we found that more than 9,500 potentially avoidable ER visits took place in the Puget Sound region in a one year period, at a cost of about ten times more than a visit to a primary care doctor. In addition, unnecessary ER visits increased risk to patients, wasted time and contributed to a worse overall patient experience for everyone. The infographic below offers a summary of our findings.
While the findings of the ACEP poll aren’t entirely surprising given the anticipated initial impact of the ACA, they do underscore the important role we each play in freeing up the ER so emergency physicians can focus on patients with acute health problems.