Narrator: This is Science Today. Part of what's been driving emergency room visits up in this country is an increased awareness and push to make sure that patients who need urgent care are getting it. On the other hand, Ellen Weber of the University of California, San Francisco's Division of Emergency Medicine, says it's sometimes difficult for patients to know, for example, whether their chest pain is resulting from a heart attack or just indigestion.
Weber: Nobody should feel foolish about coming to an emergency department. It's not the job of the person who is not a medical person to decide for themselves that they have an illness that does or doesn't need treatment. If they have a new symptom and they just need reassurance, I don't think that's a bad reason to come to an emergency department.
Narrator: The key, Weber says, is to put it into context.
Weber: If I have a pain in my arm or my leg, I go in my own head – well, this is probably not a stroke. But I've always told people they should never feel silly about discovering that they don't have a serious problem – that's what we're here for.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.