ERs swell from doctors sending patients

April 30, 2011 at 2:21 AM

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) -- Many assume crowded U.S. hospital emergency rooms are mostly due to the uninsured, but many patients are sent there by their doctor, researchers say.

Dr. Sandra Schneider, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, says more than 80 percent of emergency physicians responding to her organization's survey say visits to their emergency departments are increasing -- and half report significant rises and more than 90 percent expecting increases in the next year.

Ninety-seven percent report treating patients on a daily basis who were referred to them by primary care doctors because fewer and fewer doctors are not available in the evening or at night. This goes against a widely held assumption that people go to the emergency department instead of seeking primary care, Schneider says.

"This poll confirms what we are witnessing in Massachusetts -- that visits to emergency rooms are going to increase across the country, despite healthcare reform, and that health insurance coverage does not guarantee access to medical care," Schneider says in a statement.

The doctors' group conducted its survey March 3-11 via e-mail sent to 20,687 emergency physicians. The survey, which had 1,768 respondents, has a margin of error range of 2.23 percentage points.

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