Is it Really an Emergency?

Is it Really an Emergency?

Did you know that more than one third of Emergency Room (ER) visits are avoidable?[1] Trips to the ER can result in long waits, unnecessary testing, and costly medical bills.  According to the CDC, the average treatment time in the ER is between two and four hours.[2] In addition, most ER visits require patients to follow-up with their primary care provider (PCP) for further treatment.  Prior to the implementation of evening clinics and urgent care centers, the ER was the first stop for after-hours medical care. From stomach bugs and sore throats, to sprains and stitches, the ER has routinely been used for less-than emergent conditions.

As the cost of healthcare increases, medical providers have worked to improve options for access to affordable after-hours care.  Recent studies suggest a potential yearly savings of $4.4 billion by diverting non-emergent care away from the ER and treating through other appropriate medical centers. 1 While many of us still instinctively think to use the ER for nighttime or weekend medical care, there are numerous alternatives that we should first consider.

For any condition that is not life threatening, patients should always contact their PCP first. Whether you speak with a triage nurse or an on-call provider, this person can advise you of the appropriate treatment route for your medical concern.  Additionally, many health insurance plans also offer a nurse advice line as part of your medical benefits.

Family Practice Associates of Lexington offers patients 24/7 access to an on-call provider. Simply call the office at (859) 278-5007, and follow the instructions to reach the on-call provider.  In addition, FPA offers extended evening hours, as well as Saturday appointments for illness or injury treatment. With same day appointments available, your primary care provider strives to accommodate your unexpected medical concerns. When your preferred provider is not available, the team of doctors and nurse practitioners at FPA are able to provide competent treatment through access to your individual medical record.  

By making a conscious effort to weigh options prior to treatment, we can begin to shift away from the old instinct of using the ER. This slight change on an individual basis can play a significant role in the overall effectiveness and affordability of the healthcare system.

[1] Uscher-Pines L, Pines J, Kellermann A, Gillen E, Mehrotra A. Deciding to Visit the Emergency Department for Non-Urgent Conditions: A Systematic Review of the Literature. The American journal of managed care. 2013;19(1):47-59.

[2] Rui P, Kang K, Albert M. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2013 Emergency Department Summary Tables. Available from: