While the health care industry is always changing, there's one place where people in need of treatment will always go: the emergency room. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted an ER use survey for adults aged 18 to 64 from January through June 2011.1 Their results indicated just how important emergency rooms are to patient well-being:
- 66 percent of ER patients were there for a serious health concern
- 79.7 percent of those surveyed visited an ER due to lack of medical coverage
- 54.5 percent of the patients believed only a hospital could offer them treatment
- 48 percent surveyed came to the ER because their doctor's office was closed
Emergency room patients
So, who is it that's coming into the ER? Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician at George Washington University, explained in Slate Magazine that there tend to be 10 types of patients who seek medical attention in an ER.2
- Some patients will come in apologizing for "bothering" the staff, but it's important that clinicians take their symptoms and conditions seriously.
- On the other hand, there are those who demand immediate attention, even though their injury may not be an emergency and there are others who require more attentive care.
- A number of people who visit the ER aren't making their first trip there – rather they are repeat customers who often suffer from chronic conditions.
- Someone who has not received satisfactory diagnosis from his or her general doctor may seek the advice of an emergency room professional as a second opinion.
- While some people consider themselves "totally healthy," that's not always the case. Patients who come into the ER and don't divulge their full medical history can put their health in danger.
- With the Internet, hypochondriacs have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Unfortunately, this may mean unnecessary trips to the ER due to self-diagnosis.
- There are also patients who are convinced that something is wrong with them, which may cause them to think they are experiencing more symptoms than they actually are.
- Regardless of what they are there for, some individuals just want to talk. While it's important for staff to get all of the necessary information, there are other patients who are in need of their care.
- When someone who is ill comes to the ER, he or she may become overwhelmed with the situation on top of their condition. That's why it's best to bring a friend or family member along.
- Unfortunately, there are some people who are looking to get a quick fix of narcotics, and they think that the perfect place to do so is an emergency room.
With all of these personalities and needs in one place, there's no doubt that an ER can be a crazy place to work, let alone come for treatment. On top of all that, things get even more hectic when a trauma is thrown into the picture. These are just some of the reasons it may be best to talk to your clinician first, especially if you are a senior.
Where should the elderly go?
More than likely, you are going to have to wait awhile before being treated in the ER. Many seniors are on multiple medications, which can weigh heavily on the proper course of treatment they require. However, these records can easily get miscommunicated or forgotten in an ER. According the The New York Times, it's likely that the number of patients going to the ER for care is going to significantly increase as the baby boomer generation continues living longer.3 So, if it's not an emergency, it may be best to wait until the morning to take a trip to your primary physician.
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1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Emergency room use among adults aged 18-64: Early release of estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2011" May 2012
2 Slate, "The 10 types of ER patients" March 18, 2014
3 The New York Times, "Emergency rooms are no place for the elderly" March 13, 2014