Not only is ER care incredibly expensive, getting to the ER via ambulance is also expensive. In fact, most patients transported to the ER via ambulance are seen and then sent home. And a majority of patients who come by ambulance could have either been seen by their primary care provider the same day or even at a later date.

Many patients arriving via ambulance have problems such as not knowing what to do about taking a new blood pressure pill or treating a runny nose. Either of these complaints could easily be managed without going to the ER.

It turns out that many fire departments have taken notice of this. Not only can sending ambulances to a patient then to the ER expensive, it can be dangerous as well, with lights and sirens on.

Some cities are developing programs to address these issues. Paramedics can evaluate the patient on the scene, ask for help from on call nurses and then if indicated arrange for an outpatient visit, home care visit or take simple measures to resolve the patient’s immediate complaints.

Not only will these measures reduce unnecessary ER visits, they can also provide more immediate solutions to patient’s concerns. A visit with your family doctor in the morning, instead of a several hour ER wait with a provider, who has never seen you before, might just be the right thing for you.

This is not to say that you should never to go to the ER, only that in some cases fire departments can help triage patients into groups who need immediate ER care and those which do not.