Primary care is one of the facets of Primary Health Care (PHC). Primary care describes the health services provided to the individual or a family through a doctor or primary health care facility.
A proper primary health care facility can reduce the disease burden in various ways. Some elements of PHC are immunization, control of endemic diseases, mother-child health and family planning, education about diseases, and prevention of common diseases.
The four basic principles of PHC are community participation, equity, intersectoral coordination, and appropriate technology. Without these, primary care cannot be provided efficiently. Without a functional primary healthcare system, a community’s prevalence and incidence of diseases will increase. The lack of primary care will lead to more and more patients landing in the ER for treatment.
The healthcare facilities need adequate and well-experienced staff to maintain smooth running. Doctors, as well as nurses, are the most important assets of hospitals. The more educated and experienced employees will prevent patient pooling and improve patient care. A common misconception regarding the role of nursing staff in a healthcare facility lies among the general public.
Nurses are an important pillar of the hospital structure
Registered nurses can do courses and degrees to enhance their abilities further. The most popular of these is the MSN degree. Now you may ask what is an MSN; it is a Master’s of Science in Nursing. Many registered nurses acquire this degree to qualify for certification exams and advance their careers.
It may happen that patients who are not suffering from a severe or life-threatening condition land in the ER. A faulty primary care system may cause this overcrowding and leads to an increased load on an already booked emergency department. A better hospital primary care provider can avoid unnecessary ER visits. Efficient flow of patients in and out of the emergency is important. Otherwise, it will lead to the pooling of patients in ER and subsequent slowing down of life-saving measures.
Here are some of the ways of improving primary care to reduce the burden in the ER.
1. Contact the Physician:
There is a misconception among the general public that they cannot contact their doctors. However, patients can easily reach out to their MDs by taking appointments. Directly contacting the physician can significantly reduce the patient load in the ER.
2. Triage System:
The triage system has proved to be beneficial to better healthcare provision. The patients can come to the triage area, where the paramedics can direct them, according to their condition to either ER or the OPD.
Triage systems can be made more effective by introducing mobile applications. Some hospitals use these applications to help patients. The patients respond to simple questions, and the app refers them to the ER or the OPD.
The navigators in the healthcare system are people who refer patients to the hospitals. They work in the emergency departments of hospitals but live in underprivileged areas of society. They connect with people in these communities and those who do not have money to buy services.
Healthcare navigators are usually the residents who have gained experience over time. They help people to associate with a healthcare facility and funding organization. These navigators direct the patients landing in ER to primary care facilities and doctor appointments for follow-up.
4. Public Awareness Campaigns:
The healthcare system should introduce programs to inform the general public about its services. For example, the hospital should use media to make people aware of their current program on AIDS or Tuberculosis.
The hospitals should also tell people, through different means, about the conditions in which they have to visit the ER and the conditions which only require a visit to the Out Patient Department.
5. Crystal Clear Instructions to Patients:
Patients may occasionally find it difficult to comprehend the directions given to them by the doctor. They might not comprehend how to remove a postoperative bandage. Therefore, they will go to the ER with an actively bleeding scar. The patient would have performed the bandage change flawlessly if it had been made explicit how to do it. But due to the improper guidelines, they might visit the ER. Giving adequate treatment and proper patient instructions are crucial. It will help to save time and money.
6. Telehealth, a Possible Life-Saver:
Telehealth programs have been proven to be very beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can call a telehealth center and tell them your symptoms. The doctors and paramedics at the center will guide you about your disease and the necessary treatment at your home.
Suppose you are suffering from a severe or life-threatening condition. In that case, you will be referred to the nearest health facility that provides the necessary care.
It decreases a load of patients in the ER while providing care to everyone.
7. Patient-Doctor Relationship:
A good patient-doctor relationship helps to reduce life-threatening complications. If the patient is comfortable with his doctor, he might make the most of his visit to the clinic. Lack of communication may complicate the disorder and put the patient’s life in danger, increasing ER load.
8. Screening Tests:
There are a lot of patients who land in the ER just because they don’t have a diagnosis. An early diagnosis can decrease the risk of complications.
Screening tests come in handy for early diagnosis of the diseases. An example of this is the screening test for Hepatitis B. If the screening test comes positive, the person is advised to undergo diagnostic tests, adopt precautions, and avoid further risk factors.
This helps the patients to understand their diseases and will be more able to avoid complications and ER visits.
9. More OPD Hours:
Outpatient Department at the hospital provides service for 8-10 hours during the day. The patients falling sick after these hours are most likely to head to the ER. The same is thought about weekends.
If the policymakers increase the OPD hours, the patient load in the ER is expected to be reduced. More and more patients will visit OPD instead of going to the ER.
Primary care is an important component of the health system. Without it, health goals cannot be achieved. The Hippocratic Oath compels doctors to treat whoever comes to them. The doctors in the ER try their best to save lives. Still, their time and attention are disturbed because of patients who are not suffering from a life-threatening condition or could have been treated at an earlier non-complicated stage.
An efficient primary care system can avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency department. Patient education and good communication between doctors and patients can help to reduce the pooling in ER. This will save time and money for patients as well as healthcare providers.