How many times in the last year have you or a family member visited the hospital emergency room? For millions of medically underserved who do not have access to a doctor, a visit to the ER is all too often the only way to get care even for the most ordinary maladies. Nearly forty percent of emergency department (ED) visits among the general population are primary care sensitive in nature and thus preventable. According to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS), 10 percent of all ED visits are non-urgent because they do not require immediate medical attention. So why seek care at a hospital when a regular primary care provider will do? There may not be any available or nearby.
A recent article in The Herald Mail Media notes that many preventable emergency department visits happen because patients could not access timely primary care. Access to a primary care provider is indeed a problem in the U.S. Some 62 million people are at risk for health issues because they do not have access to regular primary care provider, according to NACHC. Some 43 percent of these medically underserved are low-income people, 28 percent live in rural areas, and many do have insurance, whether it is private coverage or Medicaid. The real issue is having a regular place to go for care to stay healthy and out of the hospital. Not having that option for primary care can prove expensive. Consider this: the average cost per health center medical visit was less than one-sixth the average cost of one ED visit.
To learn more about health centers and their role in reducing hospital ED use read this NACHC fact sheet.