Know When the ER is the Right Choice for Care

Emergency-room visits often are unnecessary, driving up costs and trying patients’ patience

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- With flu season waiting in the wings, emergency rooms nationwide will likely soon be crowded with those who’ve been bit by the annual bug and who are mistakenly seeking treatment in the ER instead of in their primary care physician’s office or in an urgent care setting. In advance of these yearly throngs, Health Net, Inc. (NYSE:HNT) is working to increase awareness regarding when it’s appropriate to visit an emergency room.

“While emergency rooms play a vital role in our communities by providing lifesaving services, many ER visits are unnecessary,” says Jonathan Scheff, MD, chief medical officer for Health Net, Inc. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, of the more than 300,000 Americans who are treated in our nation’s ERs each day, the majority don’t require emergency care. Unnecessary emergency room visits result in increased costs and prolonged waits. As Scheff explains, “Routine care that’s delivered in an emergency room is significantly more expensive than routine care that’s delivered in a primary care office or urgent care clinic. Also, because the most serious cases are treated first in emergency rooms, those with non-emergency needs can expect extended waits.”

Adult emergencies

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) points out that it’s in everyone’s best interest to reserve emergency rooms for those who are seriously ill or injured. Toward that end, the ACEP offers the following list of warning signs for adults that can indicate a medical emergency:

  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath;
  • Chest or upper-abdominal pain or pressure lasting two minutes or more;
  • Fainting, sudden dizziness or weakness;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Sudden dimness or loss of vision;
  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body;
  • Difficulty talking or understanding speech;
  • Sudden, severe headache;
  • Confusion or changes in mental status;
  • Difficulty waking;
  • Any sudden or severe pain;
  • A major injury, such as a head trauma or broken bones;
  • Poisoning or overdose;
  • Uncontrolled bleeding;
  • Eye injury;
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea;
  • Coughing or vomiting blood;
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings;
  • Significant abdominal pain.

Childhood emergencies

The ACEP recommends seeking immediate medical attention if an infant, toddler or child exhibits any of the following warning signs of a medical emergency:

  • Confusion or delirium;
  • A significant decrease in responsiveness;
  • Excessive sleepiness;
  • Irritability;
  • Seizure;
  • Strange or withdrawn behavior;
  • Severe headache or vomiting, especially following a head injury;
  • Uncontrolled bleeding;
  • Inability to stand or unsteady walking;
  • Unconsciousness;
  • Abnormal or strained breathing;
  • Skin or lips that appear blue or purple (gray for darker-skinned children);
  • Feeding or eating difficulties;
  • Increasing or severe, persistent pain;
  • Fever accompanied by a change in behavior (particularly with a severe, sudden headache accompanied by mental changes, neck/back stiffness, or rashes);
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea.

For more information about when emergency care is needed, as well as about injury prevention, visit

Medical Advice Disclaimer

The information provided is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your medical condition and follow your health care provider’s instructions.

About Health Net

Health Net, Inc. is among the nation’s largest publicly traded managed health care companies. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. Health Net’s health plans and government contracts subsidiaries provide and administer health benefits to approximately 6.0 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE and Veterans Affairs programs. Health Net’s behavioral health subsidiary, MHN, provides mental health benefits to approximately 5.0 million individuals in all 50 states. Health Net’s subsidiaries also offer managed health care products related to prescription drugs, and offer managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs.

For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit the company’s website at

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Media Contact:
Health Net, Inc.
Amy Sheyer, 818-676-8304
[email protected]

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