The Doctor’s Note: Should I go to the emergency room?

Summer is here! The warm weather and long days offer us extended opportunities to be outside and active. It can also create opportunities for injury or illness that may happen after hours.

When injury or illness strikes suddenly, you may need to decide if a trip to the emergency room is necessary. Take time to consider how serious the problem really is before you head to an emergency room.

Almost half of patients seen in an ER could have been treated more efficiently in their doctor’s office. Emergency room care can be life saving for serious conditions, but more costly and less well suited for treating minor problems.

Symptoms such as chest pain, trouble breathing, any severe pain or major trauma need immediate attention in an ER. For less serious situations, a call to your physician or a visit to an urgent care center may be a better solution. Enjoy summer, but do it safely.


Michael Atwood, M.D., CHIE, is the vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. He is a board certified family physician and an American Academy of Family Physicians fellow.

Note: Since the date of this publication, Dr. Atwood has retired from BCBSKS.

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