The Myths and Realities of Emergency Care

At the ACEP Leadership and Advocacy Conference in Washington, DC earlier this year, I heard one government official after another – appointed and elected – say that if we could just get people out of the emergency department, our country’s health care woes would be on the road to recovery.

Those types of statements are based on multiple layers of bad data, incorrect facts and wrong assumptions. ACEP is now setting the record straight with a new public awareness campaign that focuses on the need to strengthen emergency medicine as part of health care reform and to dispel the myths surrounding emergency care. In addition to full-page ads in national news publications, ACEP is distributing thousands of letters to Congress, the Administration, and every key stakeholder in the health care reform debate. Every ACEP member is also being encouraged to participate.

What are some of the common misperceptions about emergency care? One of the newer myths states that the need for emergency care will decrease when the nation passes health care reform. In fact, when Massachusetts expanded coverage for its citizens, emergency department usage increased, a trend that is expected to continue if universal coverage is made available nationwide. Another myth that has become part of the public consciousness is that emergency departments are full of people who don’t need to be there. That is simply not true. According to the CDC, only 12 percent of emergency department patients have non-urgent medical problems. And of course the myth we all hear over and over is that emergency care is inefficient and expensive. Although emergency departments deal with almost 120 million patient visits per year, emergency care accounts for only 3 percent of total health care expenditures.  

Want to learn more? Go to And once there, take a moment and “Spread the Word.”

  1. #1 by Alexis - October 15th, 2009 at 13:20

    “if we could just get people out of the emergency department, our country’s health care woes would be on the road to recovery.” One hundred and twenty million people elect to go to the ED every year. Our goal as a nation should be to provide the best quality care to these patients during their visit.

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