Imagine it is 2 a.m. in the ER at High Tech University Hospital. The charge nurse turns to his computer monitor to see who waits in triage. Three new patients. Alongside one of their names sits the dreaded red airplane icon. This means the patient has visited the ER more than five times in the past 30 days—she’s a “frequent flyer.”
He doesn’t remember her, but her name is Mrs. Simmons. She has bipolar disorder, an illness that affects about 4 percent of the population and is characterized by extreme emotional swings and sometimes psychotic episodes. Though she arrived before the other two patients, our nurse decides to go to her room last, thinking it’s likely not an urgent problem since she’s here so often.