Deciding to Use the Emergency Room: A Qualitative Survey of Older Veterans

Claver M. Journal of Gerontological Social Work 2011; 54(3): 292-308. 

Increasing use in the past decade has created pressure for hospital emergency rooms (ERs). Healthcare provided through an ER is expensive and is not designed to meet the complex needs of an older, chronically-ill population. ER visits are presented as the outcome of a decision-making process. Thirty veterans who had visited the ER in the previous year were asked about their decisions to use the ER. Their responses reflected four distinct approaches to ER use, which are characterized by frequency (frequent/infrequent) and risk for social isolation (low/high). Appropriate interventions by social work personnel might reduce inappropriate use of the ER and enhance the care of this vulnerable population.


emergency room, veterans, case studies, decision making