We recorded the symptoms and disposition of every patient who visited the otorhinolaryngology emergency department at our hospital in Rome, Italy, during 1996. During that time, our ENT specialists saw 21,548 patients. Only 311 of these patients (1.4%) required immediate hospitalization, while another 2,391 patients (11.1%) received treatment and were released. The other 18,846 patients (87.5%) did not have any pathology or condition that qualified as an actual emergency, and they were examined and released, often with a prescription or instructions for home care. These patients could have easily been treated by a family physician. The fact that emergency care in Italy is rendered free of charge (unlike ambulatory care, for which fees are charged) provides patients with a strong incentive to misuse the system. Such overutilization drives up the cost of health care and stretches the capacity of the medical staff. Steps need to be taken to redirect patients who misuse emergency services to seek medical care in ambulatory care centers.
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Ear, Nose and Throat Journal|
|Publication status||Published - Mar 2000|
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