Better make that doctor appointment

John Taylor: July 06, 20070 Comments

Delay is the American way. At least when it comes to calling your doctor's office for a checkup or because that nagging pain in your gut isn't going away.

The appointment means changing work hours, juggling child care duties, forking over a co-pay, waiting.... waiting... as your blood pressure rises -- which the lady wielding the pressure cuff will remind you after noting how many more pounds you've put on.

Fact is, if you have a doctor, have insurance and can get an appointment, then most of your "problems" are minor. If you have to slog into a hospital emergency department for treatment, consider these recent tidbits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and elsewhere:

  • In 2005, there were 115 million visits to EDs in the U.S. That's a record, and an increase of 5 million from the previous year. It's a 20% jump since 1995.

  • Between 1995 and 2005, the number of emergency departments decreased from 4,176 to 3,795.

  • Abdominal or chest pain, fever and cough accounted for 20% of complaints by ED visitors.

  • In 2006, the average wait time in the ED was 4 hours and 18 minutes, according to Press Gainey Associates. (You should be so lucky as to only wait that long. And, surprise, researchers found that patient satisfaction scores nosedive the longer the wait.)

  • Uninsured adults are four times as likely to use the ED as those with insurance, and uninsured kids are five times more likely to seek ED treatment, according to the Government Accountability Office. (So, factor in that a lot of people in the ED are a lot sicker than those who have access to regular medical care.)

So, making that appointment and bringing a magazine to the waiting room shouldn't look so bad.