Health officials working to decrease amount of patients driving themselves to the hospital

Local News

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Health care workers in La Crosse are looking to decrease a trend involving how patients get transported to hospitals.

First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff tells us why some patients are choosing not to dial 911.

Some patients in the Coulee Region are taking emergency trips to the hospital into their own hands.

“We’re seeing about one-third of the patients that live locally are coming by personal vehicle instead of by EMS to the emergency room,” Gundersen Health System Clinical Manager of Cardiology Josh Marler said.

Marler says those numbers are from patients suffering from heart attacks.

Gundersen Stroke Program Manager Bethany Girtler says similar numbers are being seen from stroke victims as well.

“A little bit more than 20% of of the patient population that we see actually drive themselves or have a family member drive them in,” Girtler detailed. “I would say that that has stayed pretty consistent over time.”

Both Marler and Girtler say they hear a variety of reasons for why patients aren’t utilizing ambulances.

“When someone says, I need to get to the emergency room, our first instinct is to get in the vehicle, it’s what we’re comfortable with,” Marler described. “Sometimes it’s geography, sometimes it’s stubbornness.”

“For a lot of patients, they don’t think that their symptoms are severe enough to warrant calling an ambulance,” Girtler added.

Another common reason cited by patients – the cost of taking an ambulance to the hospital.

“It’s always a piece that’s on people’s minds,” Tri-State Ambulance Program Manager of Clinical Services Nick Eastman said. “Gundersen and the community does everything they can to keep the cost of health care down, but it’s always a concern.”

Eastman says the cost of an ambulance ride can vary depending on insurance coverage, but some patients want to avoid that cost altogether.

He believes patients need to weigh that cost versus the benefit that an ambulance provides.

“Every minute we can save saves brain tissue, it saves muscle, it can really limit or reduce the amount of significant effects that the patient experiences beyond today,” Eastman said. “Having that treatment as quickly as possible is important and affects not just now but your future.”

In La Crosse, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.

Gundersen officials say patients greatly benefit from the care ambulances provide in transit as opposed to care not beginning until a patient arrives at the hospital.

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