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Why I Would Rather Go to the ER Than See My Primary Care Physician

The health care system is broken. I am 100% for utilizing primary care physicians, lowering health care costs, and reducing unnecessary testing. But my patience has finally come to its end.

I would rather go to the emergency room than see my primary care physician.  And I’m not the only one. ERs are packed with non-urgent patients that primary care physicians should see.  And I’m tempted to be one of them.

My circumstances up to this point:

  • The primary care shortage means the earliest I can see my physician is in 2 weeks.
    • I could be better, or far worse, in 2 weeks time.
    • And yes, 2 weeks. Recently I called a series of offices trying to find an appointment with a different doctor sooner than 2 weeks.
  • If I want to see the physician sooner, I can call every early afternoon leading up to the appointment and hope I can jump in for a last minute cancellation.
    • And I have to have the job flexibility leave work at late notice in the middle of the day for an appointment.
  • If my primary care physician orders tests, due to insurance I have to travel to another location to get these tests done. 
    • This extends the time I’m out of the office or even delays me from taking the tests because I have to set up another appointment at a new location to get the tests done.
  • When my primary care physician refers me to a specialist it increases my wait time for resolving my health problems.
    • This extends my time of being unwell.  I went through 3 appointments with my primary care physician, and now I’m referred to a specialist who can’t see me for 3 weeks.  By now I’ve had an issue for a month and I have to wait 3 more weeks to see a specialist. This is 7 weeks of my life being disrupted by an illness without any remedy or therapy.

But if I waited at the emergency room:

  • I would be able to see a health care team in a few hours when I’m not at work.
  • All my tests would be done in the same location.
  • I could see a specialist right away.
  • I would be diagnosed and on a treatment course to being healthy in less than a day. 

But I’m not an urgent patient. My appendix isn’t about to erupt. I didn’t break my leg and have a bone sticking out. But I also don’t want to wait to be cured.

So what should I do next? I’m not sure. But right now I’m tempted to join the crowd and be one of the thousands waiting in a hospital, hoping for a cure today instead of an appointment in 2 weeks.


  1. I’m with you, sister! I don’t mind my PCP or even Urgent Care when it’s something understandable, like a sinus infection. But my PCP seems to be clueless when the solution doesn’t immediately present itself and the tests don’t validate their first theory. I was told yesterday, for serious ab pain, to “Try a heating pad and Advil. Call us next week if it’s not better”. That’s like when my kids’ doctor prescribed “honey and love” for their sore throat when in fact they had strep throat; we just discovered it too early for the test to work right. At least the ER docs continue to try tests and ideas until they pin down what’s wrong. Maybe we can go together and get a two-for-one special? :)

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