Partnership shows how to Make the Right Call on emergency care

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Make the Right Call

Using the emergency room (ER) for non-emergencies increases health care costs for everyone in the Tri-State and slows the response time for true medical emergencies. That is why Council on Aging is partnering with the Health Collaborative and other community healthcare leaders in a campaign called “Make the Right Call.” 

An analysis of emergency room visits in the Tri-State area shows four of the top five reasons for ER visits are conditions that are rarely emergencies, particularly if they are treated early by a primary care physician.  They are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Headache
  • Upper respiratory infection

National studies show 70 percent of ER visits could be avoided.  A recent study of one of the most prevalent emergency room visits for seniors – urinary tract infection  - found these cases alone added $4 billion in unnecessary health care cost. 

“Make the Right Call” was created to help people understand the difference between a medical emergency and non-emergencies.  When there is doubt, the best way to avoid misusing the ER is to have a strong relationship with a primary care physician.   

Nationally, the average cost of a visit to a family doctor is $145, compared to emergency room charges averaging $1,316*.  Furthermore, your family doctor will be there to see you through diagnosis and treatment, while the emergency physician will expect you to get your follow up care elsewhere. 

“As a family physician, we want our patients to call us early, when symptoms first develop, so we can assess and treat them before the pain becomes acute or frightening,” says Dr. Barb Tobias, Medical Director for the Health Collaborative. “Even when it is after hours, a call to your doctor often can result in the advice you need to make the right call, and often the right call is to stay as comfortable as possible until the doctor can see you in the office.” 

Your doctor knows you, your medical history, your medications, and more.   Emergency room physicians do not have an ongoing relationship with their patients, meaning the burden is on you to tell them what they need to know to treat you correctly.  Further, the burden is on you to find the follow up treatment the emergency physician will almost always recommend. 

The “Make the Right Call” campaign uses the power of social media, including Facebook and  Twitter, to encourage people to think about how they are using the emergency room.  COA joins Universal Health Care Action Network – Ohio (UHCAN) and Health Care Access Now (HCAN) as partners with the Health Collaborative’s YourHealthMatters initiative, for this campaign. The partners are sharing messages and tips via their newsletters, local media and social media sites. 

Meanwhile,, our community’s objective source for doctor ratings, has information consumers need to help them choose a primary care physician.  Almost 600 area doctors voluntarily provide data to the site that allows YourHealthMatters to assess and rate their success in treating several common conditions.  Many also participate in a patient satisfaction survey that allows visitors to the site to see how other patients rank the care they receive.  

 Area hospitals, along with health care providers, community organizations and employers have committed to a goal of lowering unnecessary emergency department visits 10 percent by April 2015. The increase in the number of individuals with access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act adds emphasis to the need to educate healthcare consumers about the most effective and efficient ways to access care.   

“Make the Right Call” partners invite community organizations to use the online toolkit and join the campaign.  The community at-large is invited to join the conversation on Facebook and/or Twitter  Community leaders, patients and families can go to and access the “Make the Right Call” page for more details.


*Source: Truven Health MarketScan®