Visiting the Emergency Room (ER), or Emergency Department, of a hospital can be a traumatic and stressful experience. But taking a moment to learn how the ER works and what to expect can help ensure a smoother process should emergency services be required.
- Keep an emergency folder on hand containing your insurance cards, a list of all medications you are taking, a list of any chronic conditions you may have, operations you have had, and any allergies—particularly drug allergies—that you have. You can also include copies of recent laboratory or diagnostic test results. Being prepared may help reduce both the cost and waiting time associated with an ER visit.
- Upon arrival at the ER, unless you arrive by ambulance with a life-threatening injury, you will most likely be assessed by a nurse, who will take a brief history of your condition and measure your vital signs. Your case will be prioritized in terms of urgency.
- Be aware that if you must be admitted to the hospital, you may have to wait some time before you are taken to your room. Plan for longer waiting times in the ER if your problem is not urgent. Remember, the ER is the primary entry point for the most serious of medical emergencies. ER physicians assess the most urgent issues prior to evaluating less critical problems.
- Ask about out-of-pocket costs. Even if you are treated at a hospital approved by your health plan, some hospitals employ doctors (e.g., ER physicians, radiologists, pathologists) who may not participate in your group plan. Social workers may be available to help you resolve insurance issues, health plan approvals, and similar situations.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions! While errors are uncommon, they may occur. When you receive any medications, diagnostic procedures, or treatments, ask what is being done and why. Don't hesitate to speak up.