Monday, June 22, 2015

Hospital ERs charging for non-emergency visits

This from in Oklahoma City: OU Medical Center ER to charge fee for non-emergency visits (

Thank you for a NAHAM member for sharing this!  What do you think?  Will this have ramifications for patient access? 
The report reads as follows –
Doctors will decide if you are there for a real emergency. If not you can stay and pay or leave. O.U. Med has found it cares for 50,000 people each year in the emergency room. Forty percent of which do not actually require emergency care, causing overcrowding and O.U. Med to implement a new program.
The report tells of an emergency room incident twelve years ago when a mother of four children had a seizure while driving. She died on impact and the four children where rushed to the hospital. One son had to be taken to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City but that ER was overcrowded so his son was flown to Tulsa.  That left the father scrambling: Four children in three locations. OU Med, officials hope they've found the cure to problems like this.
"Our ER needs to spend time with our high risk, real emergency patients and not with the low risk non-emergency patients," said Dr. Steinhart with OU Medical System.  OU Chief Medical Officer Dr. Curt Steinhart insures OU's new screening program.  "Fully compliant to federal law and no risk to patients," said Dr. Steinhart.
Under the new program, patients will enter the ER and go through a screening. If it's a true emergency, the patient stays. If not, there will be a copay or out-of-pocket charge of $200.  "An amount that will focus on them really deciding do they need to be seen here and now," said Dr. Steinhart.
If the patient doesn't want to pay, then OU Med will provide a list of nearby urgent care clinics.
"Not only is the ER the wrong place for these patients but it's not as good as care and it's more expensive," said Dr. Steinhart.
O.U. Med is not the first hospital in the nation to use this program, which has drawn some criticism from advocates stating in a published report, "this strategy could discourage patients from going to the ER for true emergencies."
Here is a list of when you should go to the Emergency Room according to OU Medical Center:
Here are warning signs of a medical emergency, according to the American College of Emergency Room Physicians (ACEP) and OU Medical Center.
  • Chest pain or upper abdominal pain that lasts at least two minutes
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Change in mental status such as confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Unusual abdominal pain
  • Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
  • Changes in vision
  • Fever or flu-like symptoms (a patient may have severe flu and require hospitalization)
  • Allergic reactions (some are severe and may be life-threatening)
  • Broken bones
  • Animal bites (these can be significant in some cases)
Here is the list of when you should go to Urgent Care:
An urgent care facility is a doctor-staffed, walk-in medical facility that offers an alternative when there isn't an emergency and you don't have access to your personal doctor. It is generally more expensive than seeing your own physician but less expensive than an emergency room visit. The center usually has immediate access to simple laboratory procedures. OU Medical Center recommends an urgent care facility visit for:
  • A sprained ankle
  • Ear infections
  • Minor burns or injuries
  • Coughs, colds, sore throats
When to call you doctor (primary care physician)
  • If you think a person needs emergency treatment at a hospital, it's sometimes helpful to first call your doctor for advice. Do this only if you have the time and the doctor is immediately available. If not, then you should call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. Your doctor can advise you as to whether an emergency situation actually exists. 
  • If there is time to spare, then you should see your doctor first. Remember, a doctor's visit won't be as expensive as a hospital's emergency treatment. And it won't tie up vital emergency medical services. The doctor may also decide that the condition can be treated in his or her office or at home. This saves your time and the hospital's time, and reduces overall health care costs. 
Please note: nothing in this blog is intended to be medical advise from NAHAM News. 

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