10 Non-Urgent Reasons People Go To The Emergency Room for Care: Waste in Health Care

Here are a few reasons people go to the ER for Non-Urgent health care issues – this list is not made up, it is based on real ER visits. Some of these types of visits are very common. Others are less common, yet show up frequently enough that they are worth a mention due to their non-emergency nature:

  • To get primary care instead of going to their doctor.
  • To get the entire family a general health checkup.
  • To get a prescription which they lost or used up – in cases for minor health conditions.
  • To get pain or other medications to sell them illegally.
  • To get a “back to work” slip.
  • To sleep in the ER because it is cold outside.
  • To remove a piercing or tight fitting ring.
  • To get a second opinion on a primary care-type health condition.
  • To get a pimple checked out.
  • For a mild cough but otherwise completely healthy.


What is the take-away?
Don’t use the Emergency Room for Non-Urgent reasons.

A mild cough is usually not an emergency. Your body may be able to heal itself. If you have comorbid or chronic conditions that are exacerbated by a cough, then it may be a true emergency.
A heart attack, shortness of breath, chest pain and other conditions are the types of conditions that qualify as a true medical emergency.

What is an emergency to you?

Please talk about these things at home and at work to help reduce overutilization of the Emergency Department for minor or mild, Non-Urgent health conditions. ER visits are very costly to your state.


Wait times in ER’s across the country

Based on data averages – Interactive wait times tool by ProPublica.org. Last updated: Jan. 14, 2015

ER Wait Times

SOURCE: ER Wait Watcher via ProPublica.org

Wait Times Increase in ER
“Research from Press Ganey Associates, a group that works with health care organizations to improve clinical outcomes, finds that in 2009, patients admitted to hospitals waited on average six hours in emergency rooms. Nearly 400,000 patients waited 24 hours or more.”

SOURCE: Don’t Die Waiting in the ER – 2009 CNN


“Wait Times Soar” Daily News
“Waiting for the Emergency Room” AFB
“Patients and Doctors Struggle with Wait Times” DAM
“A Bold Guarantee” Mequon Now
Ambulatory Health Care Data – CDC survey

Wait times in Urgent Cares across the country:
“Sixty-nine percent of urgent care centers have wait times of less than 20 minutes, 28 percent have wait times between 21 and 40 minutes and 3 percent have more than a 40 minute-wait.1″

SOURCE: 25 Things to know About Urgent Care – Beckers Hospital Review

Wait times for a Primary Care Physician’s appointment:
PCP Wait Time In Days National Average 2013
Cumulative Average Wait Time in Days, 2013

Cumulative Average Wait Time in Days, 2013
Cumulative Average Wait Time in Days, 2013

About 19 days waiting to see a Primary Care Physician after scheduling an appointment, national average in 2013. Based on a study of 1,400 medical offices in the United States. This means Wait Time in Days for a PCP appointment/specialist may have actually decreased slightly since 2009, by about 2 days.

PCP Wait Time In Days National Average 2013 Part B
Cumulative Average Wait Time in Days, 2009 and 2004
SOURCES: Merritt Hawkins: Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicaid and Medicare Acceptance Rates (PDF report), Doctor Wait Times Rise As ObamaCare Rolls Out, NY Times: Long Wait Times Have Become the Norm

Attribution: Eric Lewis (CC)

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