No one wants to be in a position in which they have to go to the emergency room, but each year 135m+ Americans do end up making a visit. Given this large number, it is probably worth reading up on some tips on how to make it as smooth an experience as possible. The less anxious the patient and the individual taking them are when going to the ER, the better for everyone.
With this in mind, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) put together “ER 101,” on “What to Expect,” offering easy-to-understand tips for the situation. In addition, it makes it much easier for physicians like Dr. Josyann Abisaab – an ER doctor at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital – when dealing with their patients. The better prepared the patient’s escort is, the easier it is for them to receive adequate treatment.
According to the ACEP’s guidelines, it is a good idea to bring an overnight bag for patients who are older and frailer, since they have a greater chance of being admitted to the hospital. The patient should try to avoid food and drink before being assessed by a physician (unless there are extenuating circumstances such as diabetes). For children, a lot of ERs have a “Welcome to the Emergency Department,” coloring book facilitating the process. The ACEP’s guidelines also includes advice on: what to expect when one arrives; what information is useful to take along; where to get medical history forms; important questions to ask before leaving the ER and more.
When confronted in the emergency room with a patient who is suspected of having elevated intracranial pressure, a physician like Dr. Josyann Abisaab will likely reach for one of the most useful tools available to her, and that is the ultrasound machine. This amazing piece of modern hospital equipment is an excellent way to discover whether or not there is dangerous pressure building up inside the skull.
According to many emergency room physicians the ultrasound is “a tremendous -triage tool with high sensitivity to detect people who need moremonitoring.”
The value of the ultrasound is highlighted even more when the emergency room is confronted with the ever-increasing problem of limited resources.
“Even at a Level I trauma center, when you have multiple patients waiting for a head CT, we need to know who we should be most concerned about and who needs to go to the operating room immediately. This helps us decide who needs to go first,” one emergency room specialist explained.
The more prepared you are before you have to visit the hospital, the more smoothly the experience should go when you actually have an emergency. If you are elderly and living alone, there are a number of precautions that you should take before an emergency room visit is necessary.
Make sure that you know which emergency room you’ll want to go to. Plan out how you will get there and have the phone numbers for your friends, your taxi service or your other ideas easily accessible and by the phone.
Going to the hospital for a visit isn’t a bad idea, particularly if you’ve never been to this particular hospital. Find out when you are there where you check in, where you wait and how the system works. Obviously, if you are brought in by an ambulance, this information won’t be relevant. But, it’s certainly possible that you will be coming on your own with a driver who has brought you.
In an interesting study in 2008, Dr. Manya Newton, an emergency room physician at the University of Michigan, and others, authored a paper explaining some of the reasons that emergency rooms are so overcrowded. While many of us make the assumption that the uninsured are coming to the emergency room too frequently for non-essential visits, they found this to be a myth. They found that, while 17% of the people in American were uninsured at the time, they only accounted for 10-15% of the visits to the ER.
One factor that they did find to explain the overcrowding is that the population at large is getting older and sicker. More people are legitimately coming to the ER for real emergencies. In addition, with fewer primary care doctors available, it’s harder to get an appointment. If you call your doctor’s office and are put off, you might consider going to the ER instead.
These are a few of the interesting findings that these emergency room doctors reported.
When someone has been in the emergency room for care, they often don’t bother to follow through afterwards. They might be happy to be feeling better the next day, or they are exhausted from their ordeal and don’t have the energy to follow through. The follow through, however, is as important as is the emergency room care itself. What does this mean?
Usually, when you are discharged from the emergency room you’ll be given follow-up instructions from the doctor. You’ll often receive a written summary of how you should continue your care, when you should visit your primary care physician, what you should do if symptoms return, and more. Before you leave the emergency room, make sure that you understand all instructions that the doctors and nurses give to you. Don’t leave feeling that you still have questions that haven’t been answered!
Then, make sure to follow through. Go and see your primary care physician the next day to give them the paperwork from the emergency room and to have them follow your care. Get your prescriptions filled and take the medicine that the emergency room has recommended. Pay attention for recurring symptoms, and more. Just because you’ve left the emergency room, and the emergency doctor’s care, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t continue to be careful about your treatment and your follow-up care at home.