Emergency Physicians Launch Campaign to Dispel Dangerous Myths about Emergency Medicine

The nation’s emergency physicians are launching a national media campaign this week to educate people about the need to strengthen emergency departments as part of health care reform and to dispel the myths about emergency care.

In addition to full-page ads in national news publications, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) is distributing thousands of letters to Congress, the Administration and every key stakeholder in the health care reform debate. Saying it could mean the difference between life and death, Dr. Nick Jouriles, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), is asking everyone to get involved (www.acep.org/realities).

One of the biggest myths, according to Dr. Jouriles, is that the need for emergency care will decrease when the nation passes health care reform.

“Massachusetts experienced a 9-percent increase in emergency visits after providing universal health coverage for its residents,” said Dr. Jouriles. “We expect significant increases in emergency visits across the nation if national universal coverage is enacted.”

In addition, Dr. Jouriles said many people incorrectly believe that emergency departments are full of people who don’t need to be there.

“It’s simply not true,” said Dr. Jouriles. “Most people who seek emergency care are having medical emergencies. Only 12 percent of patients have nonurgent medical problems, and many of those have the symptoms of a medical emergency, but after examination and testing, we learn their medical conditions are not emergencies, which is good news. But it was still right for them to seek emergency care.”

Dr. Angela Gardner, president-elect of ACEP, said another myth the campaign is dispelling is that emergency care is inefficient and expensive.

“Emergency care is only 3 percent of total health care expenditures,” said Dr. Gardner. “Our lights are on 24 hours a day and emergency care is highly efficient care, because we have access to most of the medical options patients need in one place. “

Dr. Gardner also said one of the most dangerous myths is that emergency care will be there when they need it.

“People take emergency care for granted, and emergency physicians are dedicated to providing the best care for their patients,” said Dr. Gardner. “But emergency care may not be fast enough to save your life if current trends continue. That’s why the nation’s emergency physicians are doing this campaign and insisting that vital, life-saving emergency care be available for all who need it.”

The campaign is promoting four crucial areas to be addressed in any health reform initiative:

  • Every person in American must have affordable and appropriate health insurance coverage. This is best provided through a combination of methods applied fairly and equitably to everyone involved.
  • Health care costs must be reduced. Eliminating the billions of dollars spent annually in defensive medicine and administrative overhead would greatly reduce costs. Health information technology must be used to its fullest — for communication and for achieving efficiencies.
  • Quality of care must improve. Emergency patients must be taken to their inpatients beds after the decision is made to admit them to the hospital. Languishing in an emergency hallway does not accomplish the purpose of hospital admission and is an affront to the patient’s dignity. Quality of care must be supported 24/7.
  • A national surge capacity plan must be developed. Resources must be provided to help our nation’s hospital emergency departments be prepared for public health crises, such as the H1N1 pandemic, a terrorist attack or other catastrophes.

For more information about the campaign, visit www.acep.org/realities.

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