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24-seven approach offers us a way (MS)

WHY ARE emergency rooms used so often? Maybe because they are there 24-seven, and you can go without an appointment. Yes, many of the problems dealt with could be handled in a doctors’ office. But call, and you will likely be told you will be seen in three months. And the average wait to get a primary care physician is over 100 days, if you can find one who is taking new patients.

So maybe the wisdom of ERs can be relished. They work for the right reasons. Change the liability laws, and let true triage occur, with referrals to open practices made for the next day. If more acute care is necessary, then on into the ER.

As it stands, show up in an ER, and the minimum screening will cost $600 to $700, and most of that is to avoid liability. The healthcare delivery system is broken, and the over-utilization of the ER is a symptom. But it teaches us about models that can work. It is all in the spin.

Dr. George Sigel

The writer is a community psychiatrist.