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Study Finds Few ER Visits are Avoidable


In a recent study, researchers found that only 3.3 percent of emergency room visits are avoidable. Also, Houston-area hospitals brace for hurricane fallout.

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

Very Few ER Visits Avoidable

According to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, only 3.3 percent of emergency room visits are avoidable. The researchers used data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2005 to 2011, a total of more than 115,000 records representing 424 million emergency department visits, to draw their conclusion. For the researchers, avoidable patients were those who did not require any diagnostic or screening services, procedures, or medications, and were discharged home. According to the researchers, the most common areas with avoidable visits were alcohol- and mood-related disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and dental conditions.

Hospitals Brace for Hurricane Fallout

Hospitals in Houston are steeling themselves for a surge in demand amid the fallout of Hurricane Harvey, The Wall Street Journal reports. The hurricane forced 27 hospitals in the area to either close or evacuate patients, and another 25 to report storm-related problems preventing them from accepting new patients. In total, 1,500 patients were evacuated from hospitals in the Houston area during the hurricane. As the roadways clear, Houston medical centers are re-opening with an expected rush of patients coming in. "We know what's coming," Alex Loessin, a spokeswoman for Memorial Hermann Health System, told The Wall Street Journal.

More Contract Docs

Since 2002, the number of doctors working freelance has nearly doubled to 48,000, according to Staff Care, a locum tenens staffing company, Stat reports. The benefits, according to those docs who are working on a contract basis, are that they earn more hourly, choose their hours, and don't have to deal with insurance reimbursements to get paid. Physician staffing companies are also staffing rural hospitals, a place where physicians don't often want to go, Ron Gleason of Fusion Healthcare Staffing told Stat. On the downside, being a contract doctor means physicians don't get as much of an opportunity to form meaningful patient relationships.

Documentary Misses the Mark

The new Netflix documentary, "What the Health," is purposefully incendiary and uses inaccurate comparisons in an attempt to draw people to veganism, Jonathan Kaplan, MD, MPH, a board-certified plastic surgeon based in San Francisco, California, writes in Medical Economics. Dr. Kaplan takes umbrage with a comparison between eating eggs and smoking five cigarettes per day. "As a physician-viewer, you immediately feel insulted as to the false drama in these claims and presenting old news as if it's hot off the press," he writes. On the positive side, Kaplan says the documentary opened his eyes to how much of a connection the food industry has to organizations like the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the American Heart Association.

Quote of the week:

Effective Physician-Patient Communication is a Must

"While there are theoretical examples of how access to the office visit note may improve patient comprehension, these notes are still institutions of medicine with many abbreviations and medical lingo sprinkled liberally throughout our documentation. I am still of the opinion that communication starts with a trusting patient-physician relationship."

Jennifer Frank, MD       

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