Viable alternatives

From today's Washington Post Letters to the Editor:

Needed: ER Alternatives
Friday, November 7, 2003

An Oct. 23 Findings column reported on a study showing that "only" 46 percent of emergency room visits by privately insured patients required care within an hour.

Why should this be surprising? The ER is often the only feasible alternative for care needed before one can see one's regular doctor, and its use is supported by most insurance plans.

A solo practitioner often has office hours only 31/2 days a week. Even if one's doctor is part of a large practice, evening hours are rare and weekend hours are generally limited to Saturday morning.

In many cases, insured patients use an ER when they do not need that kind of capability. But our health system provides little in the way of viable alternatives outside of doctor's office hours.

WILLIAM SAMUEL
Silver Spring

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