Table 3

Themes specific to ED care

ThemeNotesRepresentative quotations
Waiting and efficiencyExpectations of long waits or quick visits; waiting following evaluation and treatment; insight into the triage system and role of EDs in the communityI went with my 90 year-old mother to this ED for the first time. There were only two other people in the waiting room. We got there at 7:00, and we were registered and seen amazingly quick. The whole staff was terrific. They did some X-rays, ultrasound, and a CT scan. My mother's pain in her leg was quickly dealt with, and we already got back home at 11:00. The doctors gave her medications that completely took away her pain. She was even able to sleep soundly. We were all walking on air the day after. By far my best ER experience. Why did the discharge take 7 h? I went there in January after injuring my head. They checked me in, CT scanned me, and did all that other stuff in an hour. Then the waiting began. A doctor came in an hour after and said that everything was okay internally. I could go home and rest my head on ice, but he needed to finish the paperwork. I waited. And waited. And waited. Then waited some more. Finally, after 6 h, I went to a desk and said that I really needed to get home (there was a baby-sitter looking after my kids). Nobody seemed able to help me. Then I just walked out pretending that I needed to make a call on my cellphone and got on the bus. The wait can sometimes be longer than you would like with sick children, but you really cannot help the fact that so many people use the ER like their family doctor. I think the ER triages correctly—when I brought an infant with fever or breathing issues, I always got seen right away. All the diagnoses have been correct, and the treatments have worked.
Decisions to seek ED carePatients need immediate care; illness or injury when primary doctor is unavailable; proximity; self-diversionWe had a real emergency when my partner somehow decided to cut off his fingertip with a wood chisel. Note that this happened on a Friday, at 17:00, on Labor Day weekend! There was just no way we could have seen a doctor quickly. Thank goodness ___ was just a few minutes away. With his finger falling off and blood everywhere, we drove here fast and they saw us right away, starting to bandage and stitch as soon as we came in the door. I wrongly assumed that you, when you have a problem that demands immediate attention (on a weekend), can visit the ED and get the care you need. Isn't that what you think too? I took my disabled brother there on Sunday morning to have her g-tube replaced, since it had gotten dislodged. It still worked, but we had been told to get it checked right away and replaced if anything happened. We were in the ER for 4 h before getting seen….
Events following dischargePerceived diagnostic errors; revisits to EDs; problems with billing and insuranceThe visit could not have gone worse! My fiancée got some glass in her hand, so we decided to go to ____. We spent a long time waiting, and then they got an X-ray without asking the doctor. Finally when Dr ___ came, she was surprised about the X-rays but looked anyway. She didn't even look at my wife's hand or listen to us. She just didn't believe there was anything in there. So my wife got a shot and rx for antibiotics. After 4 h! Twelve hours after we left, they called us—there actually was a piece of glass in her hand! Glad was not really sick. When we finally left, I got some paperwork and was told that if I paid in full in a week, there would be no more fees. I did that, but then I got bills for really high amounts. A few were mistakes, and I spent a lot of time on the phone. One was for the X-ray, which is apparently not included in the first bill. After paying, they reassured me that everything was good to go. But then I got another bill for doctor's fees—I had to pay twice as much!!