Smokers are 4 times more likely to use the ER
That smoking habit could be the cause of someone’s frequent visits to the emergency room.
Smokers are four times more likely than non-smokers to become high-volume ER users, according to a recent study by researchers from the University at Buffalo. People with chronic diseases, substance abuse problems and psychiatric illnesses were also found to be frequent ER visitors.
“We do see a lot of smokers,” says Dr. Steven Zahn, medical director of the emergency department and immediate care centers at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “Most people understand smoking is not good for their health, and when you tell them that, they generally feel guilty and get it. It’s whether or not they can quit.”
The study analyzed more than 56,000 Medicaid claims from two Western New York State counties. Patients between the ages of 16 and 64 were grouped based on their underlying disease complexity – healthy, at risk for chronic disease, diagnosed with chronic disease, and diagnosed with a system failure such as kidney or heart failure.
“More people have access to health insurance and are going to the emergency room,” Dr. Zahn says. “It’s the immediacy of it all. There is quicker access to care and patients want that care right away.”
Researchers said there findings were consistent with previous studies, supporting the fact that frequent ED users are complex patients who utilize all health services more frequently. Ongoing efforts are needed to redesign the health care system through enhanced care coordination, improved after hours and urgent primary care access, and enhanced effectiveness of existing care are indicated.
“Everybody is using health care more,” says Dr. Zahn. “If you’re not sure whether to go to the emergency room, call your doctor first. Your doctor always has a better sense of who you are and your health background.”
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