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Observations from the ER

Mark Mzyk | February 15, 2009

This past Monday I sliced open my finger while making dinner.  I don’t recommend this as a way to start off the week.  I opted not to use my brain and the result was a sharp knife running across my finger along with the realization that sometimes the way movies portray a stabbing isn’t that far from reality.

My finger is now fine, back in one piece after seven stitches.  My wife and I spent about four and a half hours in the emergency room waiting for the stitches.  We were told it was one of their busy nights, so perhaps my wife and I were just unlucky.  While waiting though, it struck me how much dead time there was.  I hadn’t thought to bring anything, such as a book, with me, and the hospital didn’t provide anything either.

Why isn’t this time used to distribute information?  One of the issues facing the United States right now is affordable health care.  Everyone admits that part of the solution is increasing preventive health care, so that the amount of emergency room visits are cut down.  Part of making this a reality is spreading useful information so people know their options.

While sitting in the emergency room it was clear that a number of the people didn’t need to be there.  Whatever ailed them clearly wasn’t an emergency.  Is it likely they didn’t have insurance and were therefore in the ER just to take advantage of the fact that the hospital couldn’t turn them away?  Perhaps.  Whether that is true or not, these are the people that need to be given information about health care, especially at a time when they’re susceptible and receptive to it.

Apollo 13 was playing on the flat screen TV in the waiting room.  At a time when people are likely to be in pain, distraction Is needed.  But why not have another flat screen on the wall, displaying insurance, or health, or government program information?  There’s a captive audience, they should be taken advantage of.

Why isn’t information made available?  There’s a void that needs to be filled.  There might even be a business model here, one where someone works as a middle man between the hospitals and those wanting to distribute information.  The middleman could format the information, making it available as pamphlets or videos or a website.

There are lots of options.  There are lots of opportunities here.