Emergency Room ‘Frequent Fliers’ Costing Time, Money

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – They’re called “frequent fliers” or “super-users” – people who clog up emergency rooms with at least ten visits each year – and they’re causing a severe burden on emergency departments nationwide.

Laurie Byrne, Director of Emergency Medicine at St. Louis University Hospital, says most of these patients have chronic illnesses.

“For example, asthmatics who don’t have a good primary care home, they’ll come to the ED every time they have a flareup because they just ran out of their medications,” she explains.

Those patients take up space and cost Medicaid and Medicare a lot of money, money which could be saved if they went to an Urgent Care facility or doctor’s office.

“It’s probably three to five times more expensive to come to an emergency department for a minor problem,” Byrne said.

According to Byrne, SLU Hospital is trying to cut down on the “frequent flier” traffic by finding those superusers and hooking them up with a primary care physician.

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