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Avoid Unnecessary Trips to the Emergency Department

Avoid Unnecessary Trips to the Emergency Department

In the movie Pay It Forward, the storyline is all about doing good deeds for strangers who, in turn, pass on a good deed to someone they don’t know. One example: A stranger gives a journalist a jazzy new Jaguar S-Type when the writer’s car is damaged in an accident. When asked why he’s doing it, the stranger says that, recently, he took his daughter to the emergency department (ED) while she was having an asthma attack. She wasn’t getting the care she needed until a wounded thug in the ED went ballistic (literally) in order to help the girl—and probably saved her life. Now he wanted to do something equally unexpected and generous for someone else.

The frustrations of waiting for hours in a crowded ED, well, that’s something most folks have experienced at one time or another. Wouldn’t it be a lot nicer if you could avoid these visits altogether?

Well, maybe you can. Researchers at the UCSF Department of Emergency Medicine looked at data on 424 million ED visits and identified the “avoidable” reasons people end-up there (avoidable was defined as visits that did not require any diagnostics, screening services, procedures or medications before being discharged home).

The top three afflictions and their preventive solutions were:

  1. Problem: Alcohol-related problems
    Solution: Seek help for dependency or abuse problems.
  2. Problem: Mood disorders
    Solution: See an M.D. therapist who can offer talk/cognitive therapy and medication.
  3. Problem: Dental-related disorders (mostly toothaches)
    Solution: Get a checkup, 1 to 2 times annually, and brush twice and floss daily.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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