LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Emergency rooms are busier than ever in Kentuckiana and nationwide. Now, there are more treatment options available and healthcare systems are hoping to change the mindset that ERs are a one stop shop.
Hospitals are reporting a higher volume since the Affordable Care Act took effect. Studies show more people are visiting emergency rooms this year than ever before.
One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act is to reduce the cost of ER visits, so if you have a non emergency, hospitals like Norton encourage you to stop by an immediate care center rather than the ER.
Inside Norton Audubon Hospital Emergency Department the number of patients doctors and nurses are seeing daily are on the rise.
"There is a big difference between the last several years," said Norton Audubon Hospital Nurses Manager Renee Cecil.
Cecil said it's not uncommon for her staff to treat non-life threatening emergencies. "As an Emergency Department, I'm obligated to see any patient that comes in," said Cecil. "If they deem it as an emergency, than I have to deem as an emergency."
Dr. Jim Frazier, Assistant Vice President for Medical Affairs with Norton says now that the healthcare systems are seeing more people insured, people are still resorting to old habits by visiting ERs for non emergency symptoms.
"Respiratory illnesses, flu like symptoms, fever and sore throat," said Frazier. "Certainly we have ICCs for our children as well."
Immediate Care Centers or ICCs are same day appointment clinics are they are popping up all across Kentuckiana. Even in grocery and drug stores.
"Certainly part of the purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to provide services at the appropriate level of care and if we can handle these at an ICC for example, it is a fraction of the cost of the care that we provide in the Emergency Department," said Frazier.
As for Hoosiers, Governor Mike Pence is expanding his Healthy Indiana Plan hoping to increase the number of people who have access to healthcare by lowering the rates of the uninsured. The Governor's goal is to make his plan more efficient than the federal Medicaid program, a plan that could become a model for other states.
"Traditional Medicaid has grown into a bureaucratic program that frankly, that doesn't serve people that are enrolled in it much better than people that don't have insurance at all," said Pence.
In the last year, Norton has offered a non-emergency phone number for patients to call. An operator will connect them to the closest immediate care center and put you on the waiting list, just like if you were to call ahead to a restaurant.
The number is (502) 629-4444. An operator can set you up with an appointment at one of 12 Norton Immediate Care Centers in Jefferson County, Bullitt County and southern Indiana.
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