Doctor visits plummet as Americans crowd emergency rooms
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
Doctor visits have been declining over the past 10 years, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released earlier this month.
Joseph Siebold, director of Student Health Services, stated in an email message that he believes family practice doctors are experiencing a decline because of a rise in emergency room visits.
“There has been an increase in patients seeking care in emergency rooms because over the years there has been a steady increase in patients who do not have health insurance, and therefore cannot afford to go to physician offices,” Siebold said.
Because health insurance is a problem for some people, it can be a deciding factor in where they seek care, Siebold said.
However, he said there has been an increase in visits to Student Health Services over the past 10 years. In the 2011-12 academic year there were 46,684 visits, an increase from the 39,961 visits during the 2002-03 school year, Siebold said.
Joy Smith, a nurse at the Newark Emergency Center located on East Main Street, said she has seen an increase in patients over the years. The center is a 24/7 service and has doctors on hand at all times, she said.
Smith said there are many people with health insurance who opt for the convenience of emergency medical clinics.
“We see many patients that could go to their family physicians, but because the times are inconvenient for the parents, they just end up coming here,” Smith said.
A walk-in clinic, like the one on Main Street, offers service for those without health insurance. At the Newark Emergency Center, a normal visit without insurance costs approximately $125, Smith said.
She said the center offers many features that a standard doctor’s office does not have on site, like X-rays and various medications, she said. They can also provide stitches, Smith said.
This does not mean immediate care centers should be used as a replacement for doctor appointments year-round, according to Siebold.
“It is really important that patients have a medical ‘home’ that partners with the patient, follows the patient and is familiar with each patient’s whole medical history and looks at preventive health care,” he said.
Because emergency medical clinics do not make appointments, they cannot establish a history or hold records for their visitors, Smith said, which can lead to mistakes or slip-ups in noting pre-existing conditions and allergies when treating patients.
Sophomore Stephanie Rothman said it is important for doctors to know about their patients.
“If you have a history with the doctor, then I believe they have a better grasp on the situation and are more useful in helping,” Rothman said.
Freshman Chris Monaghan thinks the Internet plays a role in the decline of doctor visits because they can search for solutions to their problems online. Going to the office can also be inconvenient because of the drive and the long wait, all for a brief session with the actual doctor, he said.