Most emergency rooms across the country have a severe overcrowding problem, and insurers have long pushed the theory that many emergency rooms visits are unnecessary or unimportant. However, a new study debunks that myth. According to the study, only a fraction of emergency room patients fails to have an absolutely urgent need to visit the ER. The overwhelming majority of visits are unavoidable.
The findings came from data taken from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from between 2005 and 2011. More than 150,000 patient records were analyzed as part of the study. The top complaints that resulted in a visit to the ER included tooth pain, backache, headache and soreness of the throat.
The researchers defined an “avoidable” visit as one that did not necessitate screening or diagnostic tests, procedures or the use of medications. The researchers found in their analysis that approximately 3.3% of emergency room visits were avoidable. Many of these avoidable visits involved mental health issues that most ERs are not in a position to treat. Approximately 10% of visits involved depression or anxiety, while close to 9% of potential conditions involved dental problems.