The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Don’t Go Broke Over Your Ankle Injury! Avoid the E.R. with Your Podiatrist’s Office

Posted by on Friday, January 3rd, 2014

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We recently came across an interesting NIH-funded study that looked at the escalating cost of medical bills. Four researchers examined more than 8,303 emergency room bills and found that the average emergency room bill was $1,233 — 40 percent more than the average American pays for a month’s rent. They also found that the cost of treating a sprained ankle ranged from $4 to $24,110!

Why Is Emergency Room Care So Expensive?

When you sustain an ankle injury, your first instinct may be to head to the emergency room because you feel they can see you sooner. However, with so many walk-in centers and so much same-day appointment availability at podiatry clinics, there is no reason why you should be subjected to such high ER bills.

While the study was not designed to evaluate the reasons behind the variability in charges, researchers did note that “Providers are often at a loss when their patient questions them about the charges for a certain procedure or treatment.”

They also found that costs sometimes ranged by factors such as:

– Severity of the injury

– Geography

– Provider reimbursement variation, and

– Healthcare monopolies.

The uninsured were found to be charged the least for a sprained ankle — followed by private insurance and Medicaid. The bottom line is this: the mean cost of treating a sprained ankle in an emergency rooms setting was found to be $1,498 — so think twice before you go there!

Podiatrist Clinics Treat Sprained Ankles for Less…

According to the Illinois Podiatric Medical Association, podiatric physicians are four times less likely to use costly inpatient services than other physicians. Podiatry Post records the average cost of treating a sprained ankle at a podiatry clinic as $400 – $500 — of which the podiatrist gets $275. This is assuming that the sprain requires an X-ray, ankle stirrup, and Level 3 E&M coding. “Perhaps, instead of screaming about how much better Podiatrists are at treating foot and ankle problems, which should scream about how efficient Podiatrists are at treating foot and ankle injuries,” the article suggests.

Most Emergency Room Visits Are Not Emergencies At All!

A 2009 study published in Clinical Orthapaedics and Related Research analyzed 119,815 ER visits in 2009 and found that the most common injury was a strain or sprain, accounting for 36%  of all visits. In fact, ankle sprains were most common, accounting for 206 out of every 100,000 trips to the ER. The actual incidence of an ankle fracture is around 49 per 100,000, though.

The challenge is that sprains, strains, and fractures all have the same symptoms — redness, tenderness, swelling, pain, the inability to bear weight, bruising. So how does one diagnose the condition? Many people presume an x-ray will tell all, but Ottawa scientists found that only 15% of fractures are diagnosed this way. Instead, they came up with a more accurate set of guidelines based on bone tenderness and one’s ability to bear weight that reduced the number of x-rays 36%.

Ottawa ankle rules
The Ottawa Ankle Rules reduced the need for x-rays by 36%.
Image Source: TechnologyEnhancedLearning.net

Podiatrists Are More Flexible Than You Think!

The old adage “It’s better safe than sorry” certainly applies to suspected ankle fractures. Many NY podiatry clinics like The Center For Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine have built time into the schedule to handle emergency visits and offer weekend hours for your convenience. Most insurances don’t require a referral to use our services. If you don’t have insurance, no worries — we will do our best to keep your out-of-pocket costs low.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.