Doctor debunks 7 myths about the emergency room

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Bon Secours St. Francis Emergency Room Physician Joshua Stanton says a common myth he hears about the emergency room is that the majority of people who come in are uninsured.

“Uninsured people really are only about 10% of the people who use the emergency department,” he said. “People really do worry about the bills.”

Another myth, he said, is that emergency medicine increases national healthcare costs.

“Only about 8 percent of healthcare dollars are spent on emergency medical care,” he explained.

The third myth he often hears is that coming to the emergency room increases your risk of contracting COVID-19, which he said is unlikely given the many precautions staff members take, including a stringent screening process, protocols to separate patients who show any symptoms of COVID-19 and frequent cleaning of rooms.

Next, Dr. Stanton said people often mistakenly believe that most emergency room visits are gruesome, traumatic accidents.

“The emergency room is not chalk full of motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds,” he said. “Forty to fifty percent are falls… such as falling from a tree or other accidents.”

Next, he said people often fear that wait times are longer than they are, but said wait times at Bon Secours St. Francis are generally between 30-40 minutes on a first-come-first-served basis, although priority is given to more serious conditions.

Another myth is that the emergency room is loud and hectic, like it is often portrayed in TV shows, which Stanton said is not the case. He explained that normally, the emergency room is quiet and calm, and patients are seen in an orderly fashion.

Finally, he said patients often expect to leave with a diagnosis rather than a referral to a specialist. He explained that the goal for physicians in the emergency room is to treat immediate needs, rule out life threatening issues, and move on to the next patient.

“My basic decision point is: are you stable enough to follow up with somebody as an outpatient or do you need to be stabilized further in the hospital?” he said.

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