95 Percent of Physicians Expect Increased ER Visits in 2012

Emergency room physicians polled in a new survey revealed they believe ER visits will increase significantly next year. The survey found that 80 percent have already seen increases this year. Even more troubling is the current and expected visit increases, in many cases, are a direct result of a lack of health insurance.

Emergency Room Visits Expected to Jump Next Year

According to a new poll issued by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), a high number of Connecticut emergency room physicians have seen an increase in visits this year. Of the 1,768 physicians who responded to the survey, 95 percent of them believe they will see even more increases in visits by 2012.

These numbers contradict the intention of health care reform, which was to help reduce expensive emergency room visits since many patients go either because they don’t have a primary care physician or their condition has worsened to a crisis stage because they didn’t see a primary care physician in the initial stages of their illness or injury.

Despite the intentions of reform, the survey concludes that visits will indeed increase because many are still without coverage. What’s interesting is that the report also found that it could also increase for those with coverage.

Even Those with Health Insurance Could Visit the ER More

Federal statistics cited in the ACEP study showed that emergency room usage reached an all-time high of 124 million visits in 2008. Among the physicians surveyed, only 28 percent said that they can attribute the increase to patients lacking coverage.

Many more patients with health insurance are visiting ERs because they are dealing with issues such as:

  • Living longer: The study found that the aging population is not only larger, but they are living longer and require more expensive care for issues like chronic pulmonary problems or diabetes. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the diseases, patients often encounter crises that cannot avoid the ER.
  • Shortage of primary care physicians: Another issue is that while many people have coverage, they don’t have access to a primary care physician because so many doctors are no longer taking new patients. This leaves those with coverage in a similar position as those without coverage–having to visit an ER to receive basic care.

Dr. Steven Wolf, chairman of emergency medicine at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn. said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times that he doesn’t see anything coming along that could change the outlook on ER visits.

“With a shortage of primary care doctors and an increasing gray population, you’re just not going to see the number of emergency room visits going down anytime in the near or mid-term future,” he said.

This means it may be up to lawmakers to come up with more ideas on how to provide affordable access to primary care physicians so that patients’ conditions can be managed before the need for an emergency room arises.