With the holiday season here, along with increases in decorating injuries, falls from ladders and illnesses related to rich food, emergency physicians are often concerned that people are confused about when to seek medical care in emergency departments.
Ninety percent of emergency physicians responding to a poll said one of the top reasons patients are redirected to emergency departments is because the patients’ medical conditions were more serious than could be treated in an urgent care setting, according to the on-line poll conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).
“Many people may feel they are saving time or money by going first to urgent care, but in instances of serious illness, that loss of time can be dangerous, said Dr. Jay Kaplan, president of ACEP.
“Urgent care centers are great options for common medical problems, but they are not substitutes for emergency care,” he said.
“Urgent care centers don’t have the same equipment and staffing as an emergency department,” said Dr. Kaplan.
“They treat minor illnesses and injuries, such as sprains and minor cuts requiring stitches. They don’t have the capabilities that emergency departments do for complex diagnoses and treatments,” he said.
Sixty-five percent said that limited equipment and staffing at an urgent care center was another top reason for patients being redirected.
The following are examples for which ER physicians say emergency care should be sought:
Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath;
Chest pain or upper abdominal pain or pressure lasting two minutes or more;
Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness;
Change in vision;
Confusion or changes in mental status, unusual behavior, difficulty walking;
Any sudden and severe pain
Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea;
Coughing or vomiting blood
Suicidal or homicidal thoughts;
Unusual abdominal pain; and
Severe headache or vomiting after a head injury, unconsciousness, uncontrolled bleeding