This isn't the first time I've wondered, but why do people come to the ED so often?
Healthy 18 yo comes in with a cold she's had for 3 days. Healthy 10 yo has a cold since this morning, mother brings him in. Healthy 17 yr old comes in because she gets a brief chest pain while sprinting for the bus that goes away when she stops running.
I think a large part of the problem is the "I want it now" mode of thinking that we Americans have fallen into. Yes, I could make an appointment to see my primary care doc in a week or two, but I want information now. Not treatment, just to talk to a doctor immediately and on my schedule.
I'm not sure everyone's aware, but in 2003 the avg ED visit was $560. That's a lot of money, and I can assure you that number's only gone up. The average stay in the ER's 3.7 hours. Another factor that I don't think people take into consideration. (Especially those of you without a serious problem who want to be seen quickly. Sorry bud, your sore shoulder? Not gonna see it 'til that guy with the stroke's got his plan set and he's going somewhere. That's... another story though.)
So, 4 hrs and half a thou. The thing is, most people don't know those numbers. The copay (if they pay one at all) is significantly lower. Many obviously believe this should be a quick stop. Meanwhile, the ones who really do need to be seen get stuck behind everyone else because the hospitals are getting overloaded. This is problematic.
My suggestion? Bill for the total amount so they at least KNOW how much they're actually paying. If nothing else, it would be informative. I mean, I'm in healthcare and I still have no idea how much some of this shit costs. Just found out a pathology report was 300 some dollars if not more.
As for changing people's "now" mentality, I recommend viewings of both Chocolate Factory movies until they can sing along with the Oompa-Loompas (from Loompaland). If they can do the dance, they get a bonus.