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Report: Many ER visits unnecessary, costly

September 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Emergency room wait times have been on the rise across the country because more and more people are coming in with minor injuries.In the study, researchers have been able to quantify for the first time just how many emergency visits could be handled by other facilities like clinics or urgent care locations.

The study, released on Wednesday by Santa Monica-based Rand Corporation, found that when people get hurt or get sick and urgent care is an option for them, people pass it up and opt instead to come to the emergency room.

Although the study did not say whether ER alternatives like clinics and urgent care centers could handle the increased patient capacity from patients who may have otherwise gone to the ER, the study did note that such facilities are generally staffed by practitioners who can treat a variety of conditions.

Researchers said that nearly 20 percent of all emergency room visits in the U.S. involve minor infections, strains and fractures.

In addition to the extended wait time, there is a financial impact as well. The study found that approximately $4.5 billion in health care costs to treat these minor injuries in emergency rooms across the country.

The study was funded by the California Health Care Foundation.

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