More than 40% of visits to St. Lawrence County emergency rooms not necessary, insurer says
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 11:40 am

A study by a major health insurer in New York State suggests that more than 40 percent of emergency room visits to St. Lawrence County hospitals, and throughout the state, could have been handled on a non-emergency basis.

Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield says that 44 percent of 2009 ER visits in the Central New York region, which includes Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, were potentially avoidable.

That amounts to 127,404 ER visits in the region in 2009.

Excellus said the term “potentially avoidable ER visits” includes “non-emergent” situations where care was not needed within 12 hours, such as some back problems; and “emergent/primary care treatable,” where patients did need treatment within 12 hours but could have had it in a doctor’s office, such as treatment of ear infections and acute upper respiratory infections.

The Excellus study says that unneeded emergency room visits can hurt quality of care, and that if just a small percentage of patients who didn’t need to go to a hospital emergency room chose another less expensive way of getting treatment, millions of dollars could be saved.