Many Patients Who Seek Routine Care at ERs Could Safely Delay Care, Study Says
Many patients who use hospital emergency rooms to receive treatment for "ordinary aches and pains" could be safely turned away with instructions to return the following day for care, according to a new study in the current issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports. The researchers said that offering some patients the choice of "next-day care" could help with overcrowding and reduce costs for "overburdened" emergency rooms. For the study, UCLA researchers analyzed 156 patients with non-acute respiratory problems and muscular aches and pains. Eighty-one patients were treated on the same day, while 75 went home and returned for appointments the next day. Those who went home were given a 24-hour telephone number to call in case of emergency and were also given the option of coming back to the emergency room prior to their appointments, the AP/Eagle reports. Dr. Donna Washington, lead author of the study, said, "What we found when we followed them up at the end of one week was that both groups improved" (Bergstrom, AP/Wichita Eagle, 11/5). The full study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.