Our Opinion: Access to appropriate health care

News Tribune editorial

Although much discussion about health care has focused on access to care, another important consideration is accessing the appropriate care.

In a story in Sunday’s News Tribune, local health care professionals discussed the use, and misuse, of emergency rooms.

An emergency room, as its name implies, is for people who are suffering, or believe they are suffering, a medical emergency. It is designed to provide immediate response to high-level trauma at all times, which make it expensive to operate.

Unfortunately, the emergency room all too often is the entry point for people who do not have an emergency or access to regular health care.

A consequence is an emergency room may not be the best venue for a patient.

Dr. Randall Haight, vice president of medical affairs at Capital Region Medical Center (CRMC), said emergency room doctors treat immediate heath issues, not the chronic issues – diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. – that may have caused the immediate problem.

Regular care may help control the conditions and avoid the need for emergency room visits.

In addition, unnecessary trips to the emergency room raise health care costs for everyone.

Tom Luebbering, vice president of finance for CRMC, said a sad reality is people who can’t afford health care often are the ones who access the most expensive form of health care – the emergency room.

He points out many of those patients can receive the same standard of care at less cost by going to urgent care facilities, operated both by CRMC and St. Mary’s Health Center.

Health care professionals are working to direct people with medical needs to the proper site – whether it is an emergency room, urgent care center or doctor’s office.

The medical community is involved in raising public awareness about: urgent care options; the value of regular, preventative care; and the need to reduce overall costs.

An added benefit is any savings could be used to extend and enhance access to the health care.

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