SCPHI Response to the American College of Emergency Physicians
The statement below is issued in response to a press release by the American College of Emergency Physicians on March 15, 2011. The press release may be accessed here: http://www.acep.org/Content.aspx?id=77433.
The South Carolina Public Health Institute (SCPHI) is pleased that the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) shares our concern for the most vulnerable members of society and appreciates their agreement that most frequent users of emergency departments possess mental and physical health problems that warrant our collective attention.
In response to the ACEP release, SCPHI director, Dr. Lee Pearson, states, “The theme of our report on frequent users of hospital emergency departments is that frequent use of the ED is often the result of unmanaged illness and a lack of a medical home. People turn to the ED when other options are not available, and this is true of people with and without insurance, including Medicaid, Medicare and private coverage. Patients with private insurance are the largest and fastest growing group of ED users.”
The following item addresses a specific concern stated by ACEP: data from the Center for Health Systems Change and the New England Health Care Institute show that overall trends indicate the proportion of non-urgent ED visits has, in fact, increased as stated in our report.
According to Maya Pack, SCPHI’s associate director for research and strategic initiatives and author of the report, “The circumstances remain that overall ED utilization rates in South Carolina are increasing significantly faster than national averages, and behavioral health and mental illness have a major impact on the costs incurred in South Carolina’s EDs. Policy goals should focus on accessible, convenient care for all patients in the most appropriate setting and should include disease and injury prevention, mental and behavioral health, and chronic disease case management.”
Dr. Pearson adds, “High health care costs, including those resulting from frequent ED utilization, are the result of a myriad of factors. The sincere and responsible pursuit of solutions to this systemic issue has at its core the rights and well-being of the patient.”