Emergency Room Visits: What You Need to Know, Part 1

By Dr. Regina Hillsman

A trip to the emergency room is always traumatic, but there are steps you can take to smooth out the process.

1. Know Your Health Care Provider’s Toll-Free Line Sometimes the necessity of an ER visit is not immediately transparent. Perhaps you are experiencing symptoms that are cause for concern but do not seem cause for great concern. In such cases, make sure you have easy access to your healthcare provider’s after-hours toll-free number. Calling will put you in touch with a nurse who can diagnose your symptoms and help determine whether a trip to the emergency room is necessary. The toll-free number can be found on your provider’s website, as well as on the back of your healthcare card.

2. Understand ER Areas Many emergency rooms are divided into different sections: trauma, pediatric, observation, and others. In emergencies, panic often clouds our minds and obscures judgment; researching your hospital’s emergency room layout ahead of time makes for one less item to worry about if you need to go to the ER.

3. Organize Emergency Data ER physicians need to know certain information, such as patient allergies, current medications, health insurance plans, and chronic conditions. Gathering such data when an emergency takes place can waste precious time. Therefore, buy a folder, fill it with copies of all your emergency information, and keep it in an easily accessible place so you can quickly retrieve it in case of an emergency.

4. Be Patient Unless you have suffered severe trauma, most emergency rooms will enforce a routine that entails you being assessed, having your vital signs measured, and being directed to a waiting area where you and other patients will be called in order of urgency. Cooperating with the triage nurse who examines you will expedite the process.

5. Visit the Same Hospital If you suffer an emergency away from home, you should visit the nearest ER location. But when you are close to your home base, try to visit your regular hospital, as the doctors and staff there have access to your medical chart and other information collected over the course of previous visits.

By Dr. Regina Hillsman

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Emergency Room Visits: What You Need to Know, Part 2

By Dr. Regina Hillsman

This set of tips for emergency room visits concludes with several more pointers.

6. Research the ER Staff Every ER is staffed differently. Some ERs rotate physicians, while others only employ board-certified doctors who specialize in emergency treatment. If you wish to know more about the staff of your local ER, visit the hospital website, and search for ER physician biographies.

7. Know Your Health Plan Health plans often seem labyrinthine and enact very specific terms and conditions, depending on what type of emergency care you require. If you are able, ask an ER staff member about out-of-pocket costs and what exactly your insurance will cover.

8. Ask Questions ER staff members are quite busy and focused on their work, but they also understand that people visiting the ER are anxious. If you have questions, do not hesitate to ask them. Even if your physician cannot answer them, other nurses or doctors will make time to talk to you as soon as they can.

9. Keep Your Discharge Instructions Before being discharged from the ER, make sure you have all of your post-visit instructions, such as how to take care of yourself, treatment plans, medication dosages, and so forth. Organize these papers as you receive them, and make sure to take the packet with you before going home.

10. Be Prepared to Wait Just as ERs assess patients in order of urgency, it can take time to be admitted to a hospital room, should it be required. Be tolerant, and understand that the ER staff has many other patients to care for, as well.

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