More Dutch Inspiration – Needless ER Visits Waste Money

You know our style. We’re opinionated folks here. We speak liberally about the red tape that bloats healthcare costs—absurd ER charges for one. You’ve heard our spiel: We insist that affordable primary care like what we offer at Atlas MD can keep people out of the ER, and save everyone (patients’ wallets, insurance companies’ payouts, frazzled doctors’ sanity, even our nation’s budget) considerably.

Speaking of costly ER charges, NPR just wrote another piece about the topic. It’s also Dutch-related, and definitely worth checking out.

NPR writes, “In the United States, the growing number of uninsured Americans means more people do not have a family doctor or primary care provider. When they suffer a worrisome accident or problem, they may end up in the nearest hospital emergency room.”

And this is where we as a nation are just pouring money down the drain.


NPR continues, “In fact, costs to hospital ERs have been growing over the past decade and ERs nationwide have had to close their doors or limit their hours as a result of out of control, burdensome costs.”
And get this: Up to half of all hospital ER visits are non-urgent according to health officials’ estimates. These are patients who direct care doctors could be effectively treating.

NPR explains, “But often, people don’t have that choice. They don’t have a doctor, and there is no health clinic nearby.”

And that right there is why we’re fighting the direct care fight. What more reason does a doctor who’s considering transitioning need to know? There are people who are unable to pay for healthcare because it’s gratuitously expensive, and there are people wasting money in ERs because they have no access to an affordable doctor when they need it.

Our health is vital. Meaning healthcare is vital. Therefore we believe it’s worthwhile to fight to make healthcare more affordable. Hence direct care.

Now try this on for size. In the Netherlands, every citizen has access to primary healthcare 24 hours per day. The system is organized much like a health maintenance organization, so patients are required to get approval from their primary care provider before they can see a specialist or go to the hospital.

The NPR article covered one night at a Dutch clinic called New West. It’s in a low-income neighborhood and opens at 6 p.m. and operates until the standard doctors’ offices opens again in the morning. A small night team handles different tasks and they either visit people at home or have them come in. Part of their job is to figure out who stays home and who comes in. This is thought through in order to save time, save money and provide exceptional care.

Dr. Nora Bartelsman is part of the staff. She’s a family practitioner who is on duty about three times a month. Bartelsman says, “I see children with fevers, back aches, skin rashes, infected eyes, bladder infections, anything. With the more serious situations, we’ll visit patients in their homes.”

Of the six patients she saw that night, only one was admitted to the hospital. Another doctor on the staff, Dr. Pascale Paques, says, “… [when patients stay home] it’s a more comfortable situation for the patient than in the hospital. And it’s a lot less costly for the health care system.”

Across the Netherlands, there are about 120 after-hours clinics like New West. And more than 90 percent of the Dutch population has access to them. Technically, the government hasn’t had these 24-hour facilities open long enough to determine if they are actually saving the nation money. “But,” NPR writes, “it’s clear from medical systems around the world that, when health care is delivered by primary care providers, there is a cost savings.”

Boom. That’s what we’ve been saying all along.