Opening more 24-hour hospital clinics

According to Health Trends in Hawaii, there were over 361,000 emergency room visits in 2008. That’s over 900 emergency visits every day (though significantly fewer visits than the rest of the U.S.). Not only does it cost more for the individual and the health insurance company, it also adds a lot of stress for everyone involved.

The problem is that many of these emergency room admissions are not urgent visits, but simply after-hour care. It’s unrealistic to expect people to go to the doctor during “business hours.”

I think that any reasonable health care solution must include:

* Longer hours for health care clinics. Instead of opening from 8 am to 5 pm, why not offer extended hours – for example, until 10 pm.

* The conversion of some clinics to 24-hour non-urgent health care clinics. Clinic staff could have regular office hours at night, a few times a week, to see people who work day shifts or who have medical issues that come up at the end of the day.

By offering extended clinic hours, we could cut down on emergency room visits, save money, offer flexible working schedules for clinic staff, reduce waiting times to see a doctor, and even reduce traffic.

Emergency room visits are expensive and stressful. The answer is not overhauling health insurance – it’s changing the way we handle “emergencies.” What do you think?

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