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Living Mutual: The emergency room

Allen Wastler

Posted on October 20, 2017

Allen Wastler is a former financial journalist with over 30-years of experience, including time at CNBC, CNN, and Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
Close up of hospital emergency team running to patient.

Sooner or later, everyone goes there…the inevitable trip to the emergency room. Such visits can have serious individual consequences. But they can also demonstrate the value of interpersonal support.

There are more than 140 million emergency room visits a year, according to 2014 data from the National Center for Health Statistics.1 That’s about 45 out of every 100 people in the United States. Roughly 40 million of those visits are for injuries. The rest are for illness or other distress.

In more than 15 percent of those visits, the patient arrived by ambulance. And in the case of emergencies, that is the wisest course of action. The medical resources and comparative speed of an ambulance can be crucial when the situation is dire.

But how about the rest of those visits? You know, the assortment of kitchen mishaps, falls, or stomach issues that weren’t serious enough to merit an ambulance call but were still concerning enough to make a trip to the ER.

Taxis and ridesharing services handle a portion of those rides, although exact statistics aren’t available. But there is some reluctance among a number of those drivers to handle such fares to the ER because of liability and possible mess issues. (Check out this Uber chat room to get a sense of how drivers feel.)

In the end, a good chunk of ER patients come through the door with the help of friends, co-workers, or family. And many times those people will endure the long waits and awkward moments with the patient as well.

Afterward, while hospital admissions offices typically don’t ask how you got there, they will always ask at discharge: “Do you have a way home?” And once again, it’s that network of mutual support that often comes to the call.

No one wants an emergency room visit. But when it’s needed, it’s often a key example of people helping people when it’s needed most. That’s the kind of interdependence we all need when injured or ill and the kind of interdependence MassMutual supports.

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1 National Center for Health Statistics, “National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2014,” May 3, 2017.

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